Industrie Angoulême – Cognac: the strength of regional cooperation
Industry in Nouvelle-Aquitaine is trying to restructure itself to revitalize the industrial territories that are losing momentum. For more than 20 years, the gap has widened between job-creating territories and those in difficulty. However, the reasons for success, such as those of deindustrialization, are very disparate. To study local dynamics and employment in industry, the Observatory of Industrial Territories carried out a case study on the Angoulême-Cognac Industrial Territory. Through this work, economists and researchers Etienne Fouqueray and Emmanuel Nadaud sought to understand the diversity of industrial territories,determine their characteristics and identify their opportunities for cooperation.
Local dynamics and change in industrial employment
The success and very functioning of industries depends on local conditions, which are difficult to reproduce elsewhere. To revitalize industrial territories, La Fabrique de l’Industrie studies local practices, aware that the dynamism of an industry also creates jobs in other sectors of the territory.
It thus gets rid of preconceived ideas, such as saying that the industry of large cities is flourishing, to the detriment of the country industry. Similarly, large industrial bases are not necessarily those that create jobs. In addition, the Observatory of Industrial Territories notes that the specialization of territories is in no way a guarantee of performance. The keys to success fall under deeper parameters, starting with effective cooperation between institutions and actors on the ground (1).
Angoulême-Cognac Industrial Territory: a viable union?
For this study, the Angoulême-Cognac Industrial Territory was chosen from among 148 industrial territories, for its local specificities revealing the differences between the different industrial basins (2).
On the one hand, in the Cognac region, the industry is built around cognac. It consists of a multitude of producers as well as large houses. Then a network of SMEs with recognized know-how, especially in cooperage, agriculture, packaging, cardboard, glassware, etc. The entire sector markets internationally and relies on the image of high-end and French luxury.
On the other hand, the industrial basin around Angoulême is mainly based on mechatronics and stationery. There are companies in energy storage, engines, naval armament, manufacture of machinery and equipment, etc. The players in place are much less numerous but larger, international, which makes them companies with little local roots. In addition, the whole of this industry is suffering the decline at the national level,the employment area of Angoulême being no exception.
Another specificity, in recent years, an image and digital industry, especially around virtual and augmented reality, has settled in Angoulême. Currently, it is the best example of local cooperation and promotes the modernization of established industries.
Cognac, the combination of key success factors
The dynamism and territorial anchoring of industries depend on multiple factors. Local history, business strategies, involvement of major players, cooperation between territorial actors…
Overall, Cognac brings together the majority of the factors favoring the development of the activity. The local industry is based on historical know-how and products made in particular for export (98%). In addition, this economy is structured by the Bureau national interprofessionnel du cognac (BNIC). Which one makes the strategic decisions for the sector. To fight against counterfeits, Cognac displays its AOC label, strengthening its strategic position. As well as those of peripheral companies, such as the Coopers of Cognac, renowned for their high-end production and selling internationally.
In fact, the Cognac industry is not relocatable and benefits from a strong local anchorage, built over the centuries. In addition, strengthened by the presence of major global spirits groups, it benefits from a considerable strike force to develop commercially and invest.
More recently, the sector has even begun to diversify. Now, more than 50% of the world’s production of super premium spirits is produced here.
Angoulême, an industry with little roots in the economic landscape
Opposite, the process and mechatronics industry around Angoulême is organized very differently. It consists of a small number of main enterprises, representing the bulk of jobs. Therefore, local dynamics depend on the strategic choices of very few actors. This situation is therefore not reassuring and insufficient to create positive variations in job creation.
In addition, the leading companies are establishments of multinational firms. Decisions concerning them are therefore taken from afar and suffered on the territory. They do not favour local cooperation and therefore do not lead to the development of the region’s economy. In addition, these industries are regularly the background activities of multinationals, in the least dynamic sectors, such as industrial automation. Basic sectors that do not create jobs very much.
On the other hand, part of the local attractiveness goes to sub-sectors, such as shipbuilding. However, the sector has only one company near Angoulême, Naval Group. It employs about 800 people. This is significantly less than neighbouring multinationals, but the positive effects are greater. In particular, thanks to the network of SMEs and subcontractors based locally.
Tomorrow’s industry: focusing on cooperation to strengthen its competitiveness
To create a dynamic and collaborations between companies in the Angoulême – Cognac Industrial Territory, local institutions launched the Eurekatech technopole in 2018. It brings together the three main sectors of activity of the region: the creative and digital industry, the process and mechatronics industry, as well as the packaging, luxury and spirits industry.
Since then, the structure has built up an overall positive image on the part of companies. However, the actions taken are generally considered insufficient, especially for manufacturers. For good reason, the technopole carries out more territorial and economic animation actions than large-scale structuring projects (such as the financing of an industrial project or road development, etc.). Professionals point to a lack of financial resources on the one hand; and an animation that does not promote social relations, on the other hand. Thus, some industrialists expect a more structured management and animation of the network of local leaders. Especially at the level of SMEs, which mesh the territory much more than multinationals.
On the other hand, some players are proving that rapprochements are possible between very different industries. As well as these collaborations make it possible to boost the local economy and employment. This is particularly the case for companies in industry and image and digital, which work with the historical industries of the territory. Recent examples include Naval Group’s order from Studio Nyx. Which has developed an immersive tool in virtual reality, for the training of sailors.