In 2005, the association ASTRID (Agency for technology support, industrial research and development) was replaced by the competitive cluster "Véhicule du Futur".
What is a competitive cluster? -> France decided in 2004 to combine the key factors of competitiveness into its new industrial policy. The most significant of these factors is the capacity for innovation. For a given local area, a competitiveness cluster is defined as:
- an association of companies, research centres and educational institutions,
- working in partnership (under a common development strategy),
- to generate synergies in the execution of innovative projects in the interest of one or more given markets.
The Alsace and Franche-Comté regions in Eastern France - regions with a history of strong cross-border co-operation - have traditionally been at the forefront of industrial ventures in land transport. 450 companies and 90 000 people currently play an active role in these two regions to improve the performance of the automotive and rail sectors with worldwide players.
The aim of Véhicule du Futur is to encourage, then support, projects initiated by the economic and academic players in a given local area. There are four success factors for each competitiveness cluster:
- Implementing a common economic development strategy that is consistent with the area’s overall development strategy,
- Creating extensive partnerships between players for specific projects,
- Focusing on technologies for markets with high growth potential,
- Reaching sufficient critical mass to acquire and develop international visibility.
By building a network of players at the forefront of innovation, the end goals of the new policy are the creation of new wealth and jobs in these regions of France.
The cluster "Pôle Véhicule du future" assists in the development of five types of project:
- Collaborative innovation projects
- SME innovation projects
- Support projects
- Upstream research projects
- Training projects.
The cluster identifies, examines, optimises and approves project proposals, including obtaining the participation of regional players in Alsace and Franche-Comté and building international links to form viable European consortia.
"Pôle Véhicule du futur" is a service aimed at establishing research and innovation projects. It has so far (as at end of 2008) approved 86 projects with a value of €190 million, involving 158 companies (of which 50% are SMEs) and 133 public research teams / technical institutes.
45 projects have so far been funded for a total budget of €87 million, with funding coming from several national, regional and local public sources and from the European Commission (e.g. as part of FP7).