CEO, Business France – France’s Ambassador for International Investment
BACKGROUND / Professional and educational background
Muriel Pénicaud has been France’s Ambassador for International Investment and CEO of Business France (formed through a merger between UBIFRANCE and the Invest in France Agency) since 2014.
From 2008 to 2014, Ms. Pénicaud held the position of Executive Vice-President, Human Resources, responsible for corporate innovation, at Groupe Danone, where she was a member of the Executive Committee, and also served as the Chairman of the Board of the Danone Ecosystem Fund for SMEs. She held a number of international executive positions at Danone between 1993 and 2002.
In the intervening period (2002-2008), she was a member of the Executive Committee at Dassault Systèmes, serving as Executive Vice-President of Organization, Human Resources and Sustainable Development.
After starting her career as a local government administrator, including leading an agency for youth employment and inclusion in the city of Metz (eastern France) and directing a regional NGO, she held a number of executive management posts at the French Ministry for Labor from 1985 to 2002, and was a Ministerial Advisor from 1991 to 1993.
Between 2011 and 2014, Ms. Pénicaud was also an independent member of the Board at Orange, chairing the Governance and Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility Committee. From 2013 to 2015, she was also an independent member of the Board at SNCF, chairing the Transport and Logistics Committee, and joined the Supervisory Board in 2015. In 2014, she was appointed as an independent Board member at Aéroports de Paris.
Ms. Pénicaud formerly chaired AgroParisTech, the National Council for the Economy & Education, and the National Institute for Labor, Employment and Vocational Training. She also co-founded and became Vice-President of TV DMA, the leading academic TV channel for Corporate Management and Business Law.
Ms. Pénicaud was born in 1955 and is the mother of two children. She has degrees in History, Educational Sciences, and Clinical Psychology and is an executive alumna of INSEAD Business School.
ACHIEVEMENTS / What does the project/initiative/startup/company you will be presenting at the Positive Economy Forum consist of?
Helping businesses develop investments and trading agreements – and making international business development an opportunity to accelerate value creation, business and employment – is at the heart of what Business France does. Our guiding principle is a three-step path for businesses: connect, fast-track, succeed.
Founded through a merger between UBIFRANCE and the Invest in France Agency, Business France is the national agency supporting the international development of the French economy, responsible for fostering export growth by French businesses, as well as promoting and facilitating international investment in France. It promotes France’s companies, business image and nationwide attractiveness as an investment location, and also runs the VIE international internship program.
LOCATION / Where is your project/company based (city, region and country)?
Business France has 1,500 personnel (50 nationalities) in Paris, Marseille, every region of France, and 73 countries throughout the world, who work with a network of public- and private-sector partners.
IMPACT / How do you evaluate the economic, social, political and environmental impact of your organization?
Furthering the internationalization of the French economy is of major importance to France’s long-term economic development, to which Business France is fully committed, driven by an efficient, result-oriented working culture.
In 2015, the number of exporting companies in France broke the 125,000 barrier, up 3% from the previous year, while nearly five million French employees work for exporting businesses. In all, Business France provides support to 10,000 companies such as these every year, mostly SMEs and mid-size companies. In 2015, three-quarters of companies receiving support made new business partners, while half signed distribution agreements in one or more markets. Business France runs 500 tailored collective support programs every year, in partnership with regional authorities throughout the country, Bpifrance (France’s public investment bank), and chambers of commerce and industry to fast-track the export growth of French SMEs and mid-size companies.
As a founding member of “La French Tech”, Business France is responsible for the worldwide promotion of this public/private initiative, which seeks to bring together players in France’s startup ecosystem, build networks of business incubators and accelerator programs, while also raising the profile of French startups internationally.
Business France also provides international career opportunities in the global labor market to young adults by running the VIE International Internship Program, through which 9,000 18- to 28-year-olds complete a one- or two-year professional assignment in a foreign country. The program not only helps advance careers (97% of participants are hired at the end of their assignment), but also helps companies expand (75% of the companies involved sign new business contracts). The scheme runs in 130 countries throughout the world, and has fulfilled 60,000 assignments in the last 15 years.
Business France also promotes and facilitates international investment in France, talking to more than 5,000 foreign companies and potential investors in 2015. A total of 522 investment decisions received support from Business France and its regional partners last year, accounting for nearly 55% of all new foreign investments in France. They also created or maintained 33,700 jobs, the highest figure in the last five years. Foreign investments were made by 55 different countries, and these continue to make an enduring contribution to the French economy: two million direct jobs, 29% of all French manufacturing turnover, 28% of business enterprise R&D expenditure, and one-third of all French exports.
Lastly, to promote France’s business image, creativity and attractiveness as an investment location, Business France leads a variety of initiatives targeting key influencers outside France (media, think tanks, decision-makers), with international campaigns such as “Créative France”, the “La French Tech” public/private initiative to promote French talent and expertise, companies and startups, as well as regional strengths, publishing and disseminating economic reports, making recommendations to government, and producing an array of communication materials about France’s attractiveness to foreign investment.
QUOTE / A sentence, quotation or a word that best describes you
“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.”