France is undergoing a culture change to flirt with risk and failure on its path to becoming an innovation powerhouse, according to its president.
"I often say in France it was forbidden to fail, and forbidden to succeed," said Emmanuel Macron, from the stage of Davos 2018.
Macron, who shook up French politics to found his own political party and win the presidential elections in 2017, spoke of a break from the rules and formalities of the past.
“Cultural change is as important as concrete reforms,” he said. “When you take risk, you need reward, and you have to reduce this cost of failure … and that’s the change we’re making in France.”
Last month, the French government passed a law echoing this spirit: citizens have the “right to make mistakes” in official documents like tax returns, if they are acting in good faith.
In his Davos speech, President Macron stressed the importance of shifting to an innovation-based economy, with a premium on education, entrepreneurialism and creativity.
The forces of globalization and technological change called for a new approach from governments, he said.
“For years, the best answer from Left and Right was - I will protect you from any change … we need to provide the real protection, which is education.”
In a bid to make France more competitive, President Macron announced a new 10 billion euro fund to finance innovation and research.
France is currently the 22nd most competitive economy in the world, according to World Economic Forum research, trailing northern European peers like Germany (5th) and the UK (8th).
“We will make innovation the centrepiece of the economy,” President Macron said, calling France a “nation of entrepreneurs.”