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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Exclusive: France to spend €32m on sustainable presence at Expo 2020 and beyond

Europe's third largest economy aims to showcase at least 500 companies at the expo

Erik Linquier, commissioner general for France - Expo 2020 Dubai, is eyeing long-term business relations with the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National 
Erik Linquier, commissioner general for France - Expo 2020 Dubai, is eyeing long-term business relations with the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National 

With a focus on urban mobility and sustainability, France is investing close to €32 million (Dh137.6m) on its national pavilion for Expo 2020 in Dubai, 50 per cent more than what it budgeted during the last Expo in Milan.

“We had spent close to €21m (Dh90.3m) during Expo 2015 in Milan and this time there is a good jump. I can say that this big jump is clearly on purpose,” Erik Linquier, commissioner general for France - Expo 2020 Dubai, told The National.

“Location of the expo is key. This will be the first expo after a very long time that will see a gathering of large number of people from different regions like Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East and that is a unique opportunity for us.”

The budget is shared equally between the French government and the private companies, about 40 per cent of which is allocated to the infrastructure of the pavilion itself.

The six-month global exposition, starting on October 20, 2020, has three themes – opportunity, mobility and sustainability – that chime with those of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint for a better global future adopted in 2015 and intended to be realised by 2030.

The French pavilion will be located within the Expo 2020 space dedicated to mobility and is expecting nearly 6 million visitors.

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“In terms of mobility or urban planning, emerging markets of Asia and Africa are the main targets of French companies. Our specific emphasis is on African communities and we will use our best connections to bring those countries to the expo,” stated Mr Linquier.

The French pavilion will offer an immersive journey for visitors with a 15-minute journey trying out the prototypes of mobility systems. For example, visitors to the pavilion can see autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles in action, as well as try out artificial intelligence and Internet of Things applications that are rising up in smart cities.

“Our main focus is to convey the French way of conceiving cities," said Mr Linquier. This means "having more citizen-centric cities" that provide easy and efficient ways of getting around and emphasise environmental sustainability.

The pavilion will host companies that work in sea transport, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and data analytics, among other sectors.

The commissioner said they plan to convert the French pavilion after the expo for continued public use and are considering a France-inspired museum or retail district.

The commission is looking for investors to ensure the long-term use of the pavilion, Mr Linquier said.

“Currently a team of 15 people is working in Paris and Dubai coordinating with different companies in two countries. By 2020, there will be a team of 200 people and in the coming months, the whole team will be relocated to the UAE.”

They are expecting 500 to 1000 different companies to participate at the pavilion.

During his visit to the UAE in November 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron said Expo 2020 is the beginning of a new phase that will see new projects and new initiatives between the UAE and France.