Sophia, a haven from the downturn (Financial Times)
The daily British newspaper conducted its investigation. Its message was even more than optimistic : the science park is continuing to grow in spite of the savage downturn in technology markets.
"Sophia, a haven from the downturn ": this is the title of an article published on Wednesday September 26th in the very serious newspaper Financial Times. Raphael Minder, who came to investigate on the science park brings his optimistic vision on the science park of the French Riviera. He wrote : « In spite of everything, the Riviera home for 1,200 technology companies is prospering ».Which arguments are developped ? The British journalist explained that it was a different story a decade ago, when the park was hit by the downsizing of Digital, the first company of the park at the time. Digital's problems raised questions about whether Sophia could survive. This time, too, the downwards spiral might yet catch the park. However, the damage has so far been remarkably limited. The Financial Times distinctly noted that Lucent, which recently announced the closure of a subsidiary in Nice, have also trimmed their presence in Sophia. And a handful of start-up companies that moved in at the height of the internet craze have shut. (Respublica is particularly mentionned).However, Sophia remains prosperous. Moreover, the newspaper took as a reference prices in the company real estate, with a rise of prices of undevelopped land (for the first time in a decade), and rental prices which have increased within a year to about 950 francs per sq metre from 750 francs on average whereas the shortage of office space is not entirely settled.How can this resistance be explained ? Raphael Minder offers three reasons.- Firstly, the science park has grown and diversified in three decades. It no longer depends on a single group or sector. Two-fifths of the 1,200 companies focus on research and development whereas only half of the 24,000 people working in Sophia are in information technology.- Secondly, because of the economic downturn, companies are more reluctant to slash R&D resources that could put them behind in the race to develop new technologies, such as the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System for mobile phone services.- Third, the advantages of the park are difficult to claim for what already exists in Europe (Cambridge, in Britain and Lannion in Britanny are mentionned). Thanks to the quality of life that Sophia can offer, thanks to its proximity with Nice international airport, the science park can keep on attracting the best international competences.Conclusion : « its biggest current problem is its success ». The Financial Times doesn’t exclude the following problems : traffic jam at the entrance of the park, few public transports, shortage of schools. However, the conclusion can boost the spirit of the ones who fear the deterioriation of the economic situation : Of course, Sophia can be cought up in the world economy’s troubles but now, its biggest problem is its success. »