Energy Research Knowledge Centre


Research themes and prioritisation


France carries out a large amount of research across a wide range of energy technologies. Article 19 of the first Grenelle de l’Environnement, for example, identified the following areas for research focus:

  • Renewable energy;
  • Energy storage;
  • Fuel cells;
  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS);
  • Energy efficiency in buildings;
  • Low-carbon vehicles and transport systems;
  • Second-generation biofuels;
  • New nuclear power generation.

Emphasis is also placed on improving education and training. At a broader level, the aim is to build on and complement European programmes and the SET-Plan while also boosting partnerships with emerging countries such as China and Brazil.

Research into renewable energy sources includes solar energy (thermal and photovoltaic), wind energy, hydraulic energy, biomass, geothermal energy and wave power. France gives high priority to encouraging the development of eco-industries, spending €1 350 million on demonstration activities for renewable energies and green chemistry. In parallel, the country is providing €1 000 million to develop research in clean energy and €250 million for smart grids. France is also investing heavily in electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, France is also looking to limit energy consumption through energy efficiency programmes. An example is the SEED programme on efficient and decarbonised energy systems funded by the national research agency Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR).

France plans to demonstrate CCS technology, while also carrying out research into reducing the costs of CCS and addressing safety issues. ANR has launched several calls in this area and has subsequently funded projects, while a CCS project was also preselected as part of the European Recovery Plan.

Finally, as nuclear energy provides the majority of France’s electricity, it is not surprising that nuclear power has long been a priority theme of French research, managed by the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEA). The main research goals in this area are:

  • Increasing the lifespan of current installations;
  • Effective replacements for current installations in the medium term (third-generation plants) and the long term (fourth-generation plants): the €650 million Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) project aims to construct a prototype fourth-generation plant by 2018;
  • Nuclear energy based on nuclear fusion, carried out in France within the framework of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project;
  • Safety at the plant level;
  • Reducing the toxicity and quantity of radioactive waste through appropriate waste treatment. The programme on treating and storing radioactive waste has a €100 million endowment.

Organisation of research


In France, energy research is co-ordinated at national level by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Ministry for Economy, Finance and Industry, the Ministry for Ecology and Sustainable Development, and the ANR, which was created in 2007 as a funding agency for research projects. The research itself is conducted by research institutes, universities, technology centres and private companies.

The most important French energy research centres are the CEA, the Institut National de l’Énergie Solaire (INES), IFP Énergies Nouvelles, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM).

France also encourages regional R&D through its competitiveness clusters, such as the Institute Carnot for Future Energies and the Technological Pole of Savoie. The aim of these clusters is to create regional centres of excellence based on regional strengths.

OSEO was created in 2005 to provide assistance and financial support mainly to SMEs focused on early-stage innovation. Responsibility for OSEO falls under the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

Created in 1991, the Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME) supports and funds environmental and energy research on a partnership basis.

Large companies are also very active in energy research in France. Among the most important actors are the state-owned EDF (electricity generation, networks, etc.) and AREVA (nuclear power). EDF alone has around 2 000 R&D employees working in three locations with an annual budget of the order of €375 million. Companies active in CCS in recent years include Total, Alstom, Air Liquide, Veolia, Schlumberger, Lafarge, GDF Suez and EDF.

Figure 1: Organisational structure of energy research in France

Programmes and budgets


Budget overview

Table 1 shows some of the main research programmes in France. Around half of all public energy R&D funding in France goes to nuclear fission and fusion, much of it outside the framework of the programmes below. In 2008, nuclear fission and fusion accounted for €477 million out of the total public energy R&D budget of €922 million. France’s overall research spending as a share of GDP is among the highest of the IEA member countries.

Table 1: The main energy research programmes in France.

Programmes and initiatives

Programme on Efficient and Decarbonised Energy Systems (SEED)

Programme Systèmes Énergétiques Efficaces et Décarbonés de l’ANR (SEED)

The aim of the SEED programme is to strengthen French academic and industrial communities in the fields of energy efficiency and decarbonisation, and boost their capacity to respond to the challenges associated with climate change and dependence on fossil fuels. The programme objectives include, for example, increasing energy efficiency in industry and buildings and contributing to the development of CO2 capture, storage and recovery technologies. The programme is funded by ANR and had a budget of approximately €11.5 million for 2011.

Programme on Production and Management of Renewable Electricity (PROGELEC)

Programme Production Renouvelable et Gestion de l’Électricité de l’ANR (PROGELEC)

This programme aims to accelerate research into the development of renewable energy on a large scale in France and to foster innovation in the integration of systems for optimal management of electricity. Its objectives include, for example, developing innovative systems for electricity production from renewables, including solar photovoltaics, and designing reliable and “smart” energy management systems for multiple sources. The programme is funded by ANR and had a budget of approximately €14 million for 2012.

Programme on Demonstrators and Technological Platforms in Renewable and Low-Carbon Energy and Green Chemistry

Programme Démonstrateurs et Plateformes Technologiques en Énergies Renouvelables et Décarbonées et Chimie Verte

This programme covers a wide range of areas, including solar power; wind energy; ocean energy; geothermal; carbon capture and storage, and recovery of CO2; plant chemistry; advanced biofuels; hydrogen and fuel cells; energy storage; and energy efficiency in buildings. The programme is managed by ADEME and has a budget of €1 275 million from 2010 onwards.

Interdisciplinary Energy Programme (PIE)

Programme Interdisciplinaire Énergie (PIE)

The ENERGIE programme is now in its third period, from 2010 to 2013. As well as research projects it supports seven Thematic Action Groups (TAGs) on seven themes, which together cover about 1 000 researchers. The TAG themes are: Hydrogen and Fuel Cells; Energy Efficiency; Clean Electricity; Buildings; Carbon Chain (including Bioenergy and CO2 Capture and Storage); Nuclear; and Socio-economic Research. The programme is funded by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and has a budget of approximately €64 million for the years 2010–2014.

Blanc and Blanc International

ANR Blanc

The Blanc programme focuses on stimulating research by European and international teams in all fields. ANR has concluded co-operation agreements with targeted countries, in order to give French researchers opportunities to collaborate with teams from outside France. The programme covers academic research and public-private partnerships. Related to the Blanc programme, Blanc International is based on specific bilateral co-operation agreements with research funding agencies outside France.

The French National Research Agency

Energy Efficiency and Reduction of CO2 in Industrial Systems


This programme aims to contribute to energy efficiency targets by enhancing the energy efficiency of industrial processes while reducing CO2 emissions. It will contribute to the development of innovative methods of energy production/conversion with CO2 capture, new transfer/transport materials and components, and advanced energy integration of industrial systems.

The French National Research Agency

Bio-Mass and Energy


This programme aims to reduce the cost and improve the productivity of energy from biomass, in particular by developing co-products. It will also support scientific and technical actions supporting pilot plant projects, particularly for second-generation processes. Particular attention is paid to SMEs.

The French National Research Agency

Sustainable Cities and Buildings

Villes et Bâtiments Durables

This programme aims to mobilise research into key issues for current and future buildings, infrastructure and urban systems. Lines of research include measurement, modelling, design and particularly implementation techniques.

The French National Research Agency

Innovative Storage of Energy (STOCK-E)

Programme Stockage de l’Énergie (STOCK-E)

The STOCK-E programme was launched in 2007 around three storage modes: electrochemical, mechanical, and heat. In its 2009 incarnation the programme included research on matching energy production systems with storage techniques and intended uses.

Smart Building and Solar Photovoltaic (HABISOL)

Habitat Intelligent et Solaire Photovoltaïque (HABISOL)

The HABISOL programme aims to mobilise the scientific community and industry to meet very ambitious targets for reducing the energy consumed by buildings: from 240 kWh/m2 annually to 50 kWh/m2 by 2050. The programme is developing comprehensive approaches to saving energy and using renewable energy while ensuring the comfort, health and safety of users.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (H-PAC)

Hydrogène et Piles à Combustible (H-PAC)

The H-CAP programme was intended to complement and support actions to be undertaken in Europe as part of the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI) programme launched in October 2008. Work focuses on basic research and evaluation in the areas of clean production of hydrogen, hydrogen storage, and systems based on batteries and fuel cells.

R&D Framework Programme

Framework Programme

Innovative energy research is an integral part of ADEME’s R&D Framework Programme. The Framework Programme 2005–2010 has eight priority areas: clean and efficient transport; GHG-emission-free buildings; new energy-efficient industrial processes; hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies, electrochemical storage; capture and storage of CO2; photovoltaics; bio-resources; and high-grade enhanced geothermal systems.

French Environment and Energy Management Agency

Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Programme

Technologies de l’Electricité Solaire Photovoltaïque

This programme focuses on advanced solutions for solar electricity generation in the building sector with particular emphasis on fully integrated components. It also aims to develop competitive industries to manufacture components and photovoltaic systems.

Smart Grids Programme

Réseaux Électriques Intelligents

The aim of this programme is to promote research on the integration of fragmented renewable energy infrastructure (wind, solar, tidal etc.) by developing smart grids, as well as products and services which can reduce electricity consumption.

National govermment departments


Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Spatial planning

Ministère de l’Écologie, du Développement Durable et de l’Énergie (MEDDE)

MEDDE draws up and implements policy concerning energy, energy raw materials, climate change and atmospheric pollution.

Ministry of Higher Education and Research

Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche (MESR)

MESR is responsible for policy governing higher education, research, innovation, new information and communication technologies, and space.

Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs

Ministère de l’Economie, des Finances et de l’Industrie(MINEFI)

MINEFI is responsible for industrial and energy research. It has a specific role in relation to research carried out by the private sector.

National research programme management agencies


Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies

Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEA)

Across 10 sites and about 15 000 employees, the CEA covers research areas including nuclear power, alternative energies, defence, information technologies and health. It takes an active part in international research forums.

Within energy research, the vast majority of funding is still for nuclear power but in recent years the CEA has significantly increased its activities in alternative energies, in particular for the building and transport sectors.

For buildings, research areas have included solar energy (thermal and photovoltaic), renewable heat and power, energy storage, energy efficiency and renovation. In transport the focus has been on batteries, fuel cells, hybrid vehicles, fuel efficiency, hydrogen and biofuels.

National Centre for Scientific Research

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

The CNRS is a publicly-funded organisation which performs research in all disciplines. Its energy-related research focuses on CCS and high-energy nuclear physics.

Competitiveness Clusters

Pôles de Compétitivité

A competitiveness cluster is an association of companies, research centres and educational institutions at regional level working in partnership (under a common development strategy) to generate synergies in executing innovative market-oriented projects. Of the 71 competitiveness clusters in France, the following are relevant to energy: Industries et Agro-Ressources, Mer Bretagne, Mer PACA, Alsace Energivie, Avenia, Capenergies, Derbi, DREAM Eau & Milieux, Nucléaire Bourgogne, S2E2, Tenerrdis, Trimatec.

National Alliance on Co-ordinating Research for Energy

Alliance Nationale de Coordination de la Recherche pour l’Énergie (ANCRE)

ANCRE was created by the CEA, CNRS and IFP Énergies Nouvelles. It aims to foster and consolidate partnerships and synergies between public research bodies, universities and businesses and, in cooperation with the businesses involved, to identify the scientific, technological, economic, environmental and societal barriers holding back industrial developments in the field of energy.

Funding organisations at national level


National Research Agency

Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR)

ANR was established in 2005 with the goal of increasing the research output of the scientific community by bringing more flexibility to the system, identifying priority areas and fostering public-private collaboration. Funding is allocated on the basis of calls for proposals and peer review.

ANR also aims to promote collaboration between public researchers and industry, and between French researchers and those outside France (in 2010, transnational collaboration represented 11.6 % of all funded projects). ANR also participates in ERA-NETs and other EU initiatives.

Sustainable Energy is one of eight broad thematic areas covered, with about 12 % of total grants. In 2010, 12 projects funded under this theme (eight European, four international) involved transnational collaboration.

Environment and Energy Management Agency

Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie (ADEME)

ADEME is the main agency in charge of the implementation and allocation of finance for renewable energy research, with a budget of around €50 million for 2007–2010. In particular, ADEME focuses on increasing efficiency, lowering costs, evaluating resources and, in the case of renewable electricity, resolving grid integration issues.

ADEME is also responsible for co-ordinating and implementing research for energy-efficient buildings, and is a key actor in research into electric and hybrid vehicles.