Connecting to the local ecosystem

Key sectors

The Côte d’Azur is experiencing a very strong growth of foreign direct investment in its territory, according to a profile of investment-oriented to services, R & D and new technologies.

As a leading region in the fields of research and innovation, the Côte d’Azur offers companies an exceptional potential thanks to a constantly growing pool of expertise, research laboratories of excellence, and professional networks that promote cross-fertilization between companies and universities, SMEs and key accounts, public research and R & D centers.

Among the sectors of excellence:

Tourism Economy
The decision-making centers of the tourism industries find exceptional hospitality conditions on the French Riviera, and a strategic point of anchorage both technologically and geographically. After the Paris region, the Côte d’Azur is the first destination for international business and leisure tourism, it welcomes more than 13 million tourists each year of which 16% are business trips or 130,000 delegates. This excellence in business and leisure tourism, coupled with a high level of expertise in ICTs, makes the Côte d’Azur a favorite area to develop new uses and new services, in e-tourism, but also in the fields of logistics or boating.

Digital Industry
The French Riviera has established itself as a European center of excellence in the field of information and communication technologies, displaying internationally recognized expertise throughout the value chain, from silicon to connected objects. Internationally recognized, Sophia Antipolis, the leading technology park in Europe, attracts world leaders and unicorns like Symphony.
The sector represents 1,740 companies for 25,000 jobs and a turnover of 4.91 billion in 2017.

Health / Life Sciences
Innovation in life sciences and technologies is focused on the Côte d’Azur through public research structured in poles of excellence. The sector, which is at the forefront of oncology, diseases of the central nervous system, nutrition and metabolism, dermatology and ophthalmology, has naturally opened up to e-health by taking advantage of the ICT expertise concentrated at Sophia Antipolis, and finds outlets in the “silver economy” on a Côte d’Azur which offers a fertile ground for conducting clinical studies and experiments.
The sector represents 313 establishments for 11,330 jobs and a turnover of 3.1 billion in 2018.

Aromas and Cosmetics
Born in the sixteenth century with the trend of scented gloves, the aroma and perfume industry has evolved along a vertical integration logic. From the traditional culture of perfume plants, the activity of the Grasse basin has extended to the manufacture of ingredients and the formulation and composition of finished products: perfumes, toilet products, but also detergents, products and food supplements. The region offers an unparalleled concentration of companies producing aromatic ingredients, strongly oriented towards export (70%), which account for more than half of French production and 8% of global turnover.

New technologies related to education services (EdTech), sport (SportTech) or travel (TravelTech) are gaining importance and developing their markets on the French Riviera which offers a connected, innovative ecosystem, ideally located and world tourism place.

Ecotechnologies and green energies
On the Côte d’Azur, ICT and environmental technologies converge in a privileged field of action between Sophia Antipolis, Europe’s leading technology park that works tomorrow’s technologies, and the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolis, which links research and innovative companies to invent a smart and sustainable city. The materialization of the territory’s investment in this green economy is the Eco Valley of Nice, an experimental and welcoming site for eco-technology companies.

Smart City
Nice, the fifth largest city in France and in the top 15 of the world’s smart cities, was very early positioned as a “smart and connected city”. Innovation and sustainable development are at the heart of its economic development strategy. Thanks to its numerous Smart City-led initiatives in the area, Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolis has strengthened its collaborations with ecosystem players from large industrial groups to local SMEs and start-ups from the French Tech or from the world of research and teaching.

Smart vehicle and new mobility
Composed of automotive players (Renault, Bosch, Mercedes …), major technological players (Orange, Thales, NXP …), green mobility players (Schneider Electric, SAP, Mobendi …), competitive clusters (SAFE Cluster, Capenergies), a research ecosystem (IMREDD, INRIA, Eurecom) and an ideal territory for experimentation, the Côte d’Azur is a fertile land for connected vehicle development.

Directly involved in the development of intelligent and autonomous vehicles of tomorrow, the Côte d’Azur is multiplying its locations and projects such as the Smart Vehicle Côte d’Azur initiative, with the aim of becoming a reference for automotive in Europe.
Initiated at the end of 2017, based on the observation that restructuring in the microelectronics industry has unlocked attractive skills for connected vehicle operators, the Smart Vehicle Côte d’Azur cluster wants to develop an entire ecosystem promoting the deployment of the connected vehicle sector. The initiative is to become a European smart car hub by 2025.

Artificial intelligence
The Côte d’Azur, future hub of the AI? The goal is to establish a real cluster dedicated to AI, for the benefit of research and businesses in the Alpes-Maritimes. Thanks to the academic environment, the training offer and the presence of specialized AI talents, the Côte d’Azur has managed to win the 3AI label in 2019. This Interdisciplinary Institute of Artificial Intelligence (3AI) supported by Université Côte d’Azur, the CNRS and Inria, along with three others in France, is part of the national program for artificial intelligence. In addition, since 2018, Sophia Antipolis is hosting the International Summit dedicated to Artificial Intelligence. An essential event under the sign of innovation and multidisciplinary exchange that brings together local and international AI experts from the world of research, leading companies and startups.

Blue economy, smart port and yachting
Blue Economy represents a sector of importance of the Côte d’Azur economy. All the economic activities related to boating are represented on the Côte d’Azur. The SOUTH region can be proud to be the first region in France in terms of marinas with 60,900 sites spread over 104 seaports which represents 32% of French sites (2015 figures).

The aeronautics and space industry of the Côte d’Azur is structured around world-class companies, subcontractors and specialized companies working in conjunction with major research laboratories and specialized training institutes. Today, more than 23,000 jobs at the Côte d’Azur level are involved in this sector.

Research environment

The quality of the Research environment is one of the many great assets of the Côte d’Azur business ecosystem. Today, there are 47 Research labs (INRIA, CNRS, INSERM, INRA, CRD etc.) in the region. More than 4,200 people from the Université Côte d’Azur are specializing in Research and working in A or A+ labs.

The quality of Research and Education of the Côte d’Azur was praised in 2016. The region received the IDEX label, which is granted by the Government as part of the Investment Program for the Future (“Programme d’Investissement d’Avenir”). This label positions the Université Côte d’Azur as a worldwide leading player. It also allows the University to invest 58M€ in Higher Education and Research in the region for 4 years.

INRIA Sophia Antipolis Méditerranée

The French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control INRIA is a public Research institute specializing in Computing Sciences and Mathematics. INRIA has several branches, including one in Sophia Antipolis Méditerranée.

The branch of Sophia Antipolis progressively expanded beyond the borders of the Côte d’Azur and opened sites in Bologna, Montpellier and Athens. More than 450 researchers and people specializing in Research activities are working for INRIA Sophia Antipolis. They are spread in 33 Research teams, 27 of which are based in Nice Sophia Antipolis. INRIA built many partnerships with different universities (UCA, Bologna, Montpellier), and other Research structures (INRIA, CNRS, etc.) to train mixed Research units (I3S, IBV, LIRMM, and LIAD).


The French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) is a public Research institute specializing in the Health sector. INSERM has 4 Research units on the Côte d’Azur:

  • Sophia Antipolis
  • The Mediterranean Centre for Molecular Medicine (« Centre Méditerranéen de Médecine Moléculaire (C3M) ») is based in the Hospital of l’Archet in Nice and run in cooperation with the University Côte d’Azur
  • The French Research Institute for Cancer and Aging (« Institut de recherche sur le cancer et le vieillissement (IRCAN) ») is based at the Pasteur Medicine University campus of Nice and run in cooperation with the CNRS and the University Côte d’Azur
  • The Valrose Biology Institute (iBV) is based in the Valrose Sciences University campus of Nice and run in cooperation with the CRNS and the University Côte D’Azur.


The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) is a public Research institute specializing in different scientific fields. The Côte d’Azur delegation of the CNRS covers the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var departments. 28 research units are part of this delegation and specializing in sectors such as Biology, Mathematics, Ecology, Environment, Chemistry, Human and Social Sciences, Earth and Universe Sciences, Physics, Engineering, Systems, and Information Sciences.

Several Research units are led in cooperation with other Azurean Research structures such as the INSERM and the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.

Other Research structures set up on the Côte d’Azur. Find out more about them and the Azurean Research industry below.

Networks, clusters and competitiveness clusters

Clusters and Competitiveness Clusters are groups of stakeholders from the local economic environment. They bring activities together to create local dynamics and reach new markets. They also provide companies with support and R&D up until the marketing of their products and services.

Other accompaniment measures include the access to advice and skills during the different development stages of the company, funding assistance, globalization support, etc. The Côte d’Azur hosts 8 state-approved competitiveness clusters, as well as many clusters specializing in local key industries.


The Capénergies Competitiveness Cluster is specializing in the Energy sector. Its main objectives are supporting the energetic transition and creating an Energy industry of excellence.
Today, more than 500 members joined the Capénergies Cluster in the South Region and in Corsica.

To learn more about the Capénergies Cluster:

SAFE Cluster

The « SAFE » Cluster is specializing in Security and Risk Management Solutions, as well as in new Aerospace and Technology Solutions for Defense. Today, more than 450 members joined the SAFE Cluster in the South Region.

To learn more about the SAFE Cluster :

Pôle Mer Méditerranée

The « Pôle Mer Méditerranée » (Mediterranean Sea Cluster) is specializing in the Water sector and aims at developing a sustainable maritime and coastal economy in the Mediterranean area. Its measures include the protection of the fauna and flora, and the different maritime infrastructures, as well as the management of maritime and mining resources.
Today, more than 420 members joined this cluster in the South Region, in Corsica, and in Occitania.

To learn more about the « Pôle Mer Méditerranée » :

Pôle SCS

The « Pôle Solutions Communicantes Sécurités – SCS » (Secured Communicating Solutions Cluster) is specializing in Digital Technologies, especially the following: Microelectronics, Internet of Things, Digital Security, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. Today, more than 320 members joined the SCS Cluster
in the South Region.

To learn more about the SCS cluster:


The Eurobiomed Cluster is supporting the development and commercialization of the Health and Fundamental Research industries in the South of France. Today, more than 270 members joined the Eurobiomed Cluster in the South Region and in Occitania.

Aqua Valley

The Aqua Valley Cluster is specializing in all jobs related to the Water sector and is a co-founder of “France Water Team”, an international brand that combines three French competitiveness clusters working in the water industry. Today, more than 250 members joined the Aqua Valley Cluster in the South Region and in Occitania.


The Optitec Cluster is specializing in the sectors of Deep Techs in Photonic and Imagery for the following fields: Security/Defense and large scientific instruments, Health and Life Sciences, Manufacturing of the Future, Smart City and Automotive, and Precision Agriculture. Today,more than 220 members joined the Optitec Cluster in the South Region and in Occitania.

Pôle Terralia PASS

The POLE TERRALIA PASS cluster is specializing in the Flavors industry and relies on the expertise and richness of companies in the Grasse area. More than 160 members joined the POLE TERRALIA PASS Cluster in the South Region.

Since 2019, the POLE TERRALIA PASS Cluster is associated to the Terralia Cluster. Together, they created the ABEN Cluster which is specializing in the Food, Well-being and Natural Products fields. More than 450 members joined the ABEN Cluster in the South Region, in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region, and in Occitania.

Cluster IA

The “Cluster IA” (Artificial Intelligence Cluster) is a group of stakeholders supporting the economic development of Artificial Intelligence on the Côte d’Azur by bringing together different local players around joint projects. It aims at promoting the Azurean AI ecosystem on a national and international level. Today, some thirty members joined the Cluster IA.

Smart Vehicles Côte d’Azur

The Smart Vehicle Côte d’Azur initiative is a business community supporting the development of new mobility solutions in the Azurean region. Large industrial groups, startups, and institutional establishments are part of this initiative. The Smart Vehicle Côte d’Azur aims at creating synergies between the different local stakeholders and placing Sophia Antipolis and the Côte d’Azur as leading European territories for new mobility solutions. Today, some forty members joined the initiative in the Alpes-Maritimes.

Assistance and useful contacts

Do you wish to set up your business on the Côte d’Azur and need assistance to discover and connect to the relevant local community?

Are you already set up on the Côte d’Azur and wishing to be better connected to the local community?