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What support is there for business start-ups in France?

What support is there for business start-ups in France?

In 2021, almost a million new companies (995,900) were founded in France. This figure sets a new record and is an increase of 17% on 2020 [1]. This number is not just made up of microbusinesses, but also corporations. 271,000 new businesses were identified in 2021, that’s a rise of 24%. [2]

Launching a business typically requires start-up capital which not all project leaders have. To support business founders, public authorities offer plenty of support, particularly:

  • Tax relief
  • Exemption from contributions
  • Subsidised loans at a low or zero interest rate
  • Material and practical help
  • Advice and support

Whether they are start-up entrepreneurs or buying over a business, company owners are still not aware of a large number of these measures. They can, however, make all the difference between the failure of the project and a much more relaxed start to the business. What financial support is available to start-up owners and how can they apply for it? Dunkerque Promotion, the leading economic development agency in the Hauts-de-France and Maritime Flanders region, gives you a full overview.

What is the main support for business start-ups in France?

There is plenty of support for business start-ups in France. A parliamentary report published in 2021 listed a total of 1,846 government financial support schemes for sole traders and corporations[3] .

Although it is impossible to draw up an exhaustive list, we have set out the ten most intriguing national support measures for start-up companies: [4]

  • The BPI France liquidity credit lends the funds necessary for starting up a company, in several forms including pre-financing the Competitiveness and Employment Tax Credit (CICE).
  • The BPI France transmission development programme can contribute to a buyer’s purchase of a company (except a company in difficulty). It is a loan for an amount between €40,000 and €650,000.
  • The ACRE (Social Charges Exemption), formerly the ACCRE (Start-up Social Security Relief), is intended for job seekers and young people between 18 and 25. [5] It provides full or partial exemption from social security contributions over the first year of business. To benefit from the ACRE, applicants must satisfy a means test.
  • Interest-free loans from the Initiative France platform are granted to start-up entrepreneurs who agree to present their project before an approvals committee. They are granted for an average duration of 3 years and an average amount of €9,200.
  • The France Active Guarantee scheme makes it possible to partially finance a bank guarantee for young companies to make it easier for them to access credit. The cover provided could reach up to 65% of the guarantee for companies created less than three years ago.
  • The NACRE scheme (new support for a company start-up or takeover) comprises a 0% interest loan of a maximum amount of €8,000. It also includes support at the time the company is set-up and for the first three years of business.[6]
  • The FGIF (Women’s Guarantee Fund) is specifically for women entrepreneurs, and provides them with a guarantee for bank loans. This guarantee is for a minimum amount of €5,000, for a term of 2 to 7 years.
  • The Réseau Entreprendre interest-free loans, without any guarantee, can reach between €15,000 and €50,000, repayable over 5 years.
  • The CAPE (support for a business project) enables a young business start-up to go on a comprehensive “preparation course”, provided by an association or other company. Lasting a year, the scheme may include the provision of material and financial resources for the entrepreneur.[7]
  • Finally, tax aids take the form of exemptions and deductions on profits. There are two main tax schemes that can be used to reduce the amount of tax payable on the company’s first profits:[8]
    • Income tax relief for subscriptions to the capital of a company
    • Loan interest deduction for investment in the company.

Plan France 2030: what’s it all about?

The France 2030 plan, a national plan established as a continuation of the France Relance economic recovery plan, enables companies to receive financial aid. These financial aids can reach up to €40,000 per company, for a total of 30 billion euros spread over 5 years.

It was recently complemented by the fourth edition of the PIA4 (Future Investment Programme), with a budget of 20 billion euros intended for innovation projects. The PIA4 is divided into a large number of grants available to start-ups, SMEs, medium-sized companies and corporations.[9]

What are the main local and innovation aids?

Some communities provide grants and incentive schemes for project leaders starting up a local business. For example:

  • In Normandy, the “helping hand” aid can cover up to 15% of the company’s financing needs, with a cap of €8,100 for a start-up and €13,500 for a takeover.
  • In the Hauts-de-France, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry provides a free course called “5 days of entrepreneurship”.
  • A local Growth and Innovation Fund was set up by the Greater Dunkirk Urban Council (CUD) in 2015[10]. Mainly intended for SMEs, it takes the form of a repayable 0% interest cash advance. [11] 

Many other aids are specifically intended to support the most innovative entrepreneurs:

  • The JEI (Young Innovative Company) status provides access to tax breaks and exemptions from social security contributions if the company spends significant amounts on research and development[12] .
  • Research tax credits (CIR) can also be applied as soon as the business is set up.
  • Some energy and fuel supply companies have established funding programmes for energy performance certificates. They can be beneficial for young companies and start-ups that implement new low-carbon solutions. This includes, for example, EDF Pulse Ventures[13] or the interest-free loan from the management of Total Energies’ in France[14] .

Where can you find information on company support?

Many websites can provide you with plenty of information on the financial support available to start-ups. There you will find the eligibility criteria, the applicable caps and the application procedures:

  • The Bpifrance website (formally the AFE or French Entrepreneurs Agency) lists all the administrative, practical and material information to bring your project to life.
  • Activ’Créa is a help and support programme provided by the French Job Centre for jobseekers wishing to set up a company. The programme lasts three months and can be taken remotely. It gives the young entrepreneur all the keys they need to get started.
  • The official website of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry also lists the majority of support measures available to the young entrepreneur.

Dunkerque Promotion helps you to set up your company

Dunkerque Promotion is an economic development agency in Maritime Flanders. Do you see yourself setting up a business or start-up in the Hauts-de-France, at the crossroads of five major European capitals? The Dunkirk region offers project leaders a powerful synergy generated by:

  • The busiest ship canal on the planet
  • High level transport infrastructures and logistics facilities
  • Many industrial and commercial enterprises already located here
  • Public partners, including the Greater Dunkirk Urban Council, who are highly committed to supporting young and innovative enterprises.

Dunkerque Promotion has already successfully supported more than 400 businesses and start-ups since the agency was founded. We provide you with local and in-depth knowledge concerning:

  • Help to find professional real estate
  • Finding funding
  • Communication support
  • Help to find partners or create a business network
  • Linking up with the public authorities
  • Help with recruitment and training
  • Extensive follow-up for the years following the creation of the enterprise


Government financial support for creating an enterprise quite often provides the helping hand needed to get the business off the ground in optimal conditions. The numerous representatives and range of eligibility criteria are, nevertheless, a significant source of complexity for a project leader.

Contact Dunkerque Promotion to get bespoke support to put together your finance package and grant applications.

Three key points to remember:

  • Business start-up help in France can include grants, tax breaks, subsidised loans and even a proper mentoring programme.
  • They are complemented by specific financial measures for certain regional authorities and even some private companies.
  • Using an economic development agency is recommended to help you effectively navigate the labyrinth of public grants for companies.

[1]        https://www.lecoindesentrepreneurs.fr/statistiques-creations-entreprises-2021/

[2]        https://www.lecoindesentrepreneurs.fr/statistiques-creations-entreprises-2021/

[3]        https://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/dyn/15/rapports/micaidepub/l15b4040_rapport-information#_ftn7

[4]        https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/fr/pdf/2019/12/fr-guide-du-cr%C3%A9ateur-en-franchise.pdf

[5]        https://www.legalstart.fr/fiches-pratiques/aides-creation-entreprise/

[6]        https://www.legalstart.fr/fiches-pratiques/aides-creation-entreprise/

[7]        https://entreprendre.service-public.fr/vosdroits/F11299

[8]        https://www.cci.fr/ressources/creation-dentreprise/accompagnement-et-aides/les-aides-principales/les-aides-pour-entreprendre-ou-reprendre

[9]              https://www.sogedev.com/plan-de-relance

[10]      https://www.communaute-urbaine-dunkerque.fr/communaute-urbaine/les-competences/developpement-economique/aides-aux-entreprises

[11]      https://www.communaute-urbaine-dunkerque.fr/communaute-urbaine/les-competences/developpement-economique/aides-aux-entreprises

[12]      https://www.legalstart.fr/fiches-pratiques/aides-creation-entreprise/

[13]      https://www.edf.fr/pulse/ventures

[14]      https://developpement-regional.totalenergies.fr/financer-les-entreprises/pret-taux-zero-ptz-aux-start-ups-et-pme

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