13 Oct 2021

“France has turned into a breeding ground for unicorns”: meet Numeum’s Executive Director Philippe Tavernier

Philippe Tavernier, Executive Director of Numeum, spoke to us about the association’s purpose, how France has become a ‘start-up nation’, and what the digital priorities of the upcoming French Presidency should be.

Numeum is a new trade association representing France’s digital sector. It was created just this year, after the merger of Syntec Numérique and TECH IN France. Both previous associations were members of DIGITALEUROPE and Numeum is continuing that partnership.

We caught up with Philippe Tavernier, Executive Director of Numeum and previously of Syntec Numérique, who told us more about the new association and his vision for accelerating digital transformation in France and in Europe, also in light of the upcoming French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Philippe Tavernier, Executive Director of Numeum

DIGITALEUROPE: Philippe, thanks for speaking to us! Tell us about Numeum, the merger and what you believe can come from this new association.

Philippe: After the formal approval of the two general assemblies of Syntec Numérique and TECH IN France, Numeum was launched on 17 June 2021. The merger is an opportunity for us to be stronger and more powerful to promote and defend our industry, engage with the wider ecosystem and the public authorities, and reinforce our negotiations with trade unions and deliver services to support our members, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

DIGITALEUROPE: What should be the top digital priorities for France and Europe?

Philippe: Firstly, to build a favorable regulatory environment to allow the emergence of champions in Europe. To do so, policymakers in France and Europe should make sure that policy initiatives support this goal, rather than creating unnecessary barriers to innovation. In my opinion, key files such as the Digital Services Act (DSA), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act and the Data Act will be a good test and we will pay close attention to their impact.

Secondly, we should continue to push for better digital education, reskilling, and better careers for all – especially in a period of skills shortage – including bridging the urban-rural divide. You will hear more from us on this during and in the lead-up to the upcoming French Presidency.

DIGITALEUROPE: What is France doing right when it comes to digital that could be of inspiration for the EU? On the other hand, what lessons could France learn from others?

Philippe: It is an understatement to say that France already has local and international champions in its digital industry. At the same time, over the last five years, France has really turned into a ‘start-up nation’. By creating a positive environment for start-ups and facilitating access to funding, France has turned into a breeding ground for unicorns. Their number has tripled over the last three years increasing from five in 2018 to 18 in July 2021 and furthermore, the French government has set a goal of 25 French unicorns by 2025. Surprisingly, despite the coronavirus crisis and two lockdowns, the resilience of French venture capital was real: start-ups raised €5 billion in the first semester of 2021.

This being said, there is a lot we could humbly learn from other EU Member States. In the last Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) report, France is ranked 15th out of the 27 EU members. As often said, we always have room for improvement!

DIGITALEUROPE: Do you think the upcoming French Presidency of the Council can be a key moment in Europe’s digital transition? What priorities and milestones will be crucial?

Philippe: I see the French Presidency as an opportunity for Europe to accelerate its digital agenda. While the priorities of the French Presidency will be announced later this autumn, there are a few files which may progress significantly in those six months, such as the DMA, the revised Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS 2), or the Data Governance Act. France will also try and advance the debates on cybersecurity, AI and the climate package unveiled this summer.

At the same time, France will face overlapping agendas. The presidential election in early April will shorten the time available for negotiations during its Presidency and we can expect things to slow down sometime in March.

DIGITALEUROPE: How do you see Numeum’s collaboration with DIGITALEUROPE moving forward?

Philippe: We really want to strengthen our cooperation with DIGITALEUROPE. Syntec Numérique and TECH IN France have been members of the organization for several years and we have been board members since 2013. I even had this pleasure and honour myself two years ago, and we are happy to be again part of it. François Lhémery, who is the head of our new public affairs and communication team, will be the Numeum representative at the Board. This is an opportunity for us to make our voice heard even more and to reinforce our contribution to the work of DIGITALEUROPE on topics such as AI, data, cybersecurity, skills and climate action, especially during the upcoming French Presidency.

For more information, please contact:
Samia Fitouri
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