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Vive la robotic revolution? Hollande’s 10-year plan

France's President Francois Hollande (L), flanked by French Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg (R), holds an humanoid robot 'Nao' from Aldebaran Robotics company as he visits an exhibition on French industrial design and technology.
Charles Platiau | AFP | Getty Images

French President Francois Hollande has revealed his 10-year road map for the country, a plan focused on new technologies – and robots in particular.

Following months of consultation, the "New Industrial France" initiative -- which aims to "reinvent" the country -- culminated on Thursday, with Hollande stressing that the country's future relied on innovation.

He said he wanted France to become a global leader in technologies including driverless cars, drones, medical robots, long-lasting batteries and battery-driven satellites. Digital services such as cloud-computing, e-education, cybersecurity and mobile payments would also be prioritized.

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Environmentally-friendly industry would also get a boost under the initiative, with investment in renewable energies, low-emissions cars, electric planes and cars and "ecological ships," among others.

Hollande argued that France's competitiveness was being affected by its current lack of industrial robots in particular. He highlighted that France's factories only have 35,000 of the machines in use, while Germany's have around 150,000.

Armed with "34 Plans," France's Minister of Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, added that "France has a duty" to remain "a nation of inventors, pioneers and producers" -- and should not allow other countries to do what it can do itself.

The speeches were accompanied by a video designed to rouse French patriotism by highlighting the country's industrial achievements (including the tank engine,cinema and modern medicine), and the hardships it has overcome (the crash of 1929, world wars and the current economic crisis).

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But the much-anticipated presentation had barely ended before it faced a barrage of criticism on Twitter over the initiative's potential cost. France has only just emerged from recession, and Hollande faces an uphill battle to spur economic growth and bring down record unemployment.

The government, however, insisted the plan would be funded by private investment and would create 480,000 jobs, while adding 45 billion euros ($59.75 billion) to the country's economy.

"One should not consider that it will cost a lot, as -- in all honesty -- most of it will be financed by private investments," Montebourg stressed, adding that "for one euro of public money lent, not subsidized but lent, we hope to collect ten times more."

The plan was welcomed by the Union of Corporate Leaders(Medef), usually quick to criticize the government, which praised the"industrial ambition" and called on the authorities to "quickly unleash a cut in labor costs and taxes weighing on companies."

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