The largest city in Atlantic France is also its most important economic hub. Nantes has a handful of opportunities for entrepreneurs, as well as very pleasant living conditions for professionals and their families. If you want to set up your business in a major French city, you should certainly consider the “City of the Dukes”.
Nantes is home to the castle which was the seat of power for the Dukes of Brittany and it also still remains the most important city in Western France. In 2022, Nantes was rated the #1 most attractive French city for businesses in the rankings published by the magazine Challenges.
The 8th largest city in France (665,000 inhabitants in the urban area) has a perfect location: it is less than 40 miles away from beautiful beaches and it takes only 2h to reach Paris by train and 3h40 by car. Nantes is at the crossway of three motorways (the A11, the A83, and the A85) and has an international airport that offers routes to more than 100 destinations. The city is also directly connected to Nantes Saint-Nazaire port, the largest port on France’s Atlantic coast.
An important economic centre
Nantes is a major economic centre in Atlantic France, and prospers in the digital, creative and cultural, healthcare, marine renewable energies, maritime transport, and shipbuilding sectors.
Major employers include the French national railway company SNCF, Bouygues, Accenture, and Capgemini. In addition, the metropolis boasts large historical companies such as Eram, Airbus, the Saint-Nazaire shipyards or LU biscuits, but also a large pool of promising startups (Doctolib, Lengow, iAdvize, Akeneo, 10-Vins, Ynsect, Weenat, Batiprint3D, Goliver Therapeutics, Xenothera, Lhyfe, etc.) which have raised several million euros in recent years.
Attracted by this dynamism, major international players have chosen Nantes as their location for setting up a company, such as Enercon Service (Germany), GE Energy and Spirit Aerosystems (USA), Trelleborg (Sweden), V Ships (UK), and Natural Power (Scotland).
Networks and resources to boost innovation
Nantes is a key meeting place for professionals and is home to many clusters:
- EMC2: the European manufacturing technology cluster provides expertise and brings together a community to promote and support collaborative innovation among SMEs
- Atlanpole Biothérapies: an interregional cluster (Atlantic France, Brittany, and Centre-Val de Loire) that coordinates the work of laboratories, companies, and platforms in the bio-medicine field
- IRT Jules Verne: an industrial research centre dedicated to manufacturing that aims to improve the competitiveness of strategic industrial sectors. The cluster brings together 73 industrial and academic members and partners and has led more than 100 R&D projects representing an investment of €225 million.
- Neopolia: an industrial business network that brings together 240 members. Neopolia builds and markets multi-expertise offers, mainly in the mobility and energy sectors
- ADN’Ouest: a network of digital professionals that brings together 640 companies and nearly 4,000 members in Atlantic France and Brittany
- NAUTIHUB: a cluster that brings together companies working within the nautical sector
- La Cantine numérique de Nantes: a network of digital companies that also offers a coworking space, dedicated services, and support programs for impactful entrepreneurship. The association also organises events, starting with the famous Web2day
- La Creative factory: a cluster that brings together players from the cultural and creative industries so as to work collectively on the principles of open innovation
- Atlangames: a network of video game professionals that aims to promote video game companies, support the creation and development of video game companies, develop new markets, and attract talent and companies to the region
The city is also home to top-class universities and higher schools (Nantes University, Centrale Nantes, Audencia, École de Design, Polytech, Oniris, École des Mines de Nantes…) and cutting-edge laboratories (Institut de Cancérologie de l’Ouest, Institut de recherche en ingénierie des surfaces, Inserm, Inrae, Oniris, Institut de Recherche en Génie Civil et Mécanique, IRCCyN…).
In addition, Nantes offers state-of-the-art resources for R&D such as the Technocampus Ocean for the marine renewables and shipbuilding sectors, a cyclotron for nuclear medicine, the Jules Verne climatic wind tunnel, and several technology resource centres.
A great place to live
Nantes is a laboratory for societal innovation. It is the cradle of pioneering initiatives in terms of smart cities and places quality of life at the centre of concerns, such as with the “15-minutes city” concept.
Several rivers cross or border Nantes, notably the Loire, the Erdre, and the Sèvre Nantaise. The Nantes region has a wide variety of landscapes and natural parks to discover and explore. Nantes also has the advantage of being close to the Atlantic Ocean, with many beaches located less than 1 hour away from the city.
In addition to its historical background (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, Passage Pommeraye), Nantes has developed a strong cultural identity. This is fully illustrated by the incredible bestiary created by the Machines de l’île, and many widely recognissed festivals: La Folle Journée, Hip OPsession, Le Voyage à Nantes, les Biennales internationales du spectacle, Festival Atlantide, Les Scènes Vagabondes, Débord de Loire, Les Rendez-vous de l’Erdre, Scopitone, Les Utopiales, etc., etc.
And like most French cities, Nantes also stands out for tasty gastronomic specialties such as the Muscadet white wine, the “Petit Beurre” biscuits, the “Berlingots Nantais” sweets, and the ”Gâteau Nantais” cake.
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