A member of the G8 group of leading industrialised countries, it is ranked as the fifth largest economy by nominal GDP. France's economy combines extensive private enterprise (nearly 2.5 million companies registered) with substantial state enterprise and government intervention (see dirigisme). The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, nuclear power and telecommunications. The government is slowly corporatizing the state sector and selling off holdings in France Télécom, Air France, as well as the insurance, banking, and defence industries. France has an important aerospace industry led by the European consortium Airbus, and has its own national spaceport, the Centre Spatial Guyanais.
According to the WTO, in 2009 France was the world's sixth-largest exporter and the fifth-largest importer of manufactured goods. In 2008, France was the third-largest recipient of foreign direct investment among OECD countries at $117.9 billion, ranking behind Luxembourg (where foreign direct investment was essentially monetary transfers to banks located in that country) and the United States ($316.1 billion), but above the United Kingdom ($96.9 billion), Germany ($24.9 billion), or Japan ($24.4 billion). In the same year, French companies invested $220 billion outside of France, ranking France as the second most important outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the United States ($311.8 billion), and ahead of the United Kingdom ($111.4 billion), Japan ($128 billion) and Germany ($156.5 billion)
French Government Participation in R&D Programs:
Total annual R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP in 2007 remained stable (2.14 percent in 2006, 2.13 percent in 2007). The Government of France has confirmed for the 2009-2011 period its commitment to promote higher education and research: the higher education and research budget will rise by 1.8 billion euros in 2009, up 6.5% compared with 2008 (including 800 million euros for research and innovation). A similar increase is scheduled in 2010 and 2011 when funding is expected to reach 26 billion euros. The French government relies on increased tax credits and incentives for the development of new investment structures to boost industrial research and eventually reach the EU’s “Lisbon agenda” goal to increase total R&D funding to 3 percent of GDP by 2010, with 2 percent coming from the private sector. Four areas (automobile, pharmaceutical, communication and aeronautics) account for more than 53 percent of research expenditure in the private sector. In the public sector, research is handled by research organizations, higher education research centers and Defense ministry laboratories.
Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI)
ELI: the project's most powerful laser in the world of physics research and technology development
ELI will be a new scientific infrastructure devoted to scientific research in lasers' field, dedicated to the investigation and applications of laser-matter interaction at the highest intensity level (more than 6 orders of magnitude higher than today's laser intensity).
The ELI project, a collaboration of 13 European countries: Czech Republic, who officially filed an application for hosting ELI on September 20, 2008, is one of the countries participating in the preparatory phase.