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Hollande turns to robots, driverless cars to revive French industry

The Socialist president, whose 2014 national budget next month will focus on curbing spending, vowed to turn back what he called a 'lost decade' of conservative rule in which some 700,000 jobs fled domestic industries. But the scheme will rely heavily on private investment and the government will act mostly as a coordinator to spur growth in 34 priority areas, from driverless cars to electric planes and a new generation of high-speed trains. "France is a nation of inventors, pioneers and producers," Hollande said, citing France's role in previous centuries and decades in developing technologies from the steam engine to hot-air balloons and rechargeable batteries. "We have a duty to remain so," he added, nonetheless insisting the plan was not a return to the so-called "dirigiste" state-directed industrial policies of the 1960s and 1970s. France's new Public Investment Bank will be on hand to offer credit for innovation - no amount was specified - but officials said they hoped to match every euro of public money invested with 10 euros raised from private investors. State-appointed "industrial officers" will press firms to work together and develop successors to French projects of the past such as the supersonic Concorde or high-speed TGV train - both fruits of state-funded research plans.

With unemployment stuck above 10 percent and the government forced this week to cut its 2014 growth forecast, Hollande is fighting to lift his approval ratings above 30 percent. He hopes such a determined display of optimism will help raise hopes for the future among the French.

But while officials say 475,000 jobs can be created or preserved if their roadmap is followed over 10 years, current data remains grim, with 49,600 industrial jobs lost in the year to August, according to the INSEE statistics office.

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