France is the future, says boss of US tech giant

France and its Socialist government have been given a ringing endorsement from the boss of an American multinational, who believes the country is about to profoundly change. Air France executives might not agree, however.

France is the future, says boss of US tech giant
France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron with Cisco chief John Chambers. Photo: AFP

Just days ago critics and commentators the world over were lambasting France for being stuck in the past after images of Air France execs having their shirts ripped off by angry workers made headlines around the globe.

Even the French president François Hollande accepted it was bad for the country’s image as it desperately tries to present itself as a safe home for foreign investors and entrepreneurs.

But there was far better news on Thursday when John Chambers, boss of US multinational tech giant Cisco had only positive words to say about the country and in particular it’s thriving start up scene that will “change all lives”.

“I believe in this country. France is on the point of profoundly transforming itself,” Chambers told Europe 1 radio.

“We understand market trends. They followed us when we went to India and China and I think that France is the future and other entrepreneurs will follow,” he said.

“I have the impression of seeing Silicon Valley in France,” said Chambers, who was in Paris to open the Cisco Innovation Research Lab in Paris along with the country’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron

Chambers announced that Cisco was to double its planned €100 million investment in start-ups in France next year to €200million, that reflects around 10 percent of the company’s overall investment around the world.

Although it is unclear for now where and how that money will be invested.

Chambers is not just any company boss. He heads one of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley – which designs and sells networking technology. Cisco is worth around €50 billion dollars.

But he believes France is the leading country in the EU for start-ups right now.

“The French government understood what was happening a year ago. It hit us that the politicians in charge of France understood better that all the others the digital revolution that is underway,” said Chambers.

“Germany the United Kingdom, all these countries are following in France’s footsteps.”

“You have a government that understands the big changes that are taking place in the world, a government that’s very pragmatic,” said Chambers.

“There’s a generation of French start-ups that will profoundly transform our way of lives,” he added.

Chamber's bigging up of France made such an impression on Thursday that at one point his name was trending near the top of Twitter in France as was the name of his company.

That was in part due to the fact his ode to France was gobbled up by the French press, who are always eager to hear what US and British leaders have to say about the state of the country.



However for once there was no sign of the French bashing they have come to expect.


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Climate change means French wines face identity crisis

France's top wines are facing tipping point due to climate change, that could winegrowers having to abandon the grapes that gave them world renown.

Climate change means French wines face identity crisis
Photo: AFP

Climate change has pushed French wines into unchartered territory, and could force producers to relocate, or abandon the
grapes that helped to make their vineyards famous, scientists said Monday.

Since 1980, growing conditions in northern climes such as Champagne and Burgundy, as well as in sun-drenched Bordeaux, have fundamentally changed the “harvest equation” that defined these storied regions, they reported in Nature Climate Change.

“For much of France, local climates have been relatively stable for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Elizabeth Wolkovich, an assistant professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of the study.

“But that is shifting with climate change,” she told AFP.

Many ingredients go into great winemaking: soil, grape variety, slope, exposure to the Sun, along with savoir faire in the vineyards and the cellar. 

But exceptional vintages have historically also required an early harvest produced by abundant spring rains, hot summers, and a late-season drought.

SEE ALSO: What will France look like in the year 2050?

Droughts helped heighten temperatures just enough to bring in the harvest a few weeks early, said lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York City and lead author of the study.

It is “basic physics at work,” he explained.

In ordinary years, the daily evaporation of moisture from soil has a cooling effect. A Indian summer makes the soil dryer — less evaporation means a warmer soil surface.

Since about 1980, however, this last element of the equation has largely vanished, the study found.

“Now, it's become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don't need drought to get these very warm temperatures,” Cook said.

That, he added, is a “fundamental shift in the large-scale climate under which other, local factors operate.”

Using meticulous records dating back to 1600, Cook and Wolkovich found harvest dates have moved up by two full weeks since 1980 compared to the average for the preceding 400 years.

Identity crisis

For France as a whole, temperatures have warmed by about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the 20th Century, and the mercury is still rising.

In the short term, that has produced some “grands millesimes,” the French term for stand-out years.

For Bordeaux, 1990, 2005 and 2010 have all been described as once-a-century vintages, while in Burgundy 2005 and 2009 are said to hold exceptional promise.

But in the long run — measured in decades — these conditions may evolve into something far less favourable, the study warned.

“If we keep warming, the globe will reach a tipping point,” said Wolkovich, pointing to what happened in 2003.

During that summer, the thermometer climbed past 40C (104F) on half-a-dozen days in the Bordeaux region in early August.

“That may be a good indicator of where we are headed,” she added. “If we keep pushing the heat up, vineyards can't maintain that forever.”

In France, signature grape varietals — pinot noir in Burgundy, and Merlot in Bordeaux — will no longer be as well-adapted.

Instead, southern England could become the new Champagne, with better climate conditions for Chardonnay.

In other wine-producing regions such as California and Australia, the solution may be to find new “terroir” better suited to these famous grapes.

In France, however, it may not be so simple.

French wines such as Champagne, Sauternes, Margaux or Saint-Emilion are grown only in authorised areas and according to rules about which grape varieties can be used in what proportions.

For many wine-makers, changing these rules is tantamount to changing the identity of the wine.