Saint-Nazaire smiles on the adventurous Saint-Nazaire has never rested on its laurels. A town that is by definition modern and changing, Saint-Nazaire has always yearned for progress.

The factory of giants is here

The Saint-Nazaire shipyards are the birthplace of true giants of the seas. Specialising in building cruise liners and high-tech ships, their order books are full until 2026 – good news for the site’s 2,500 employees and many subcontractors.

The giants designed in Saint-Nazaire rise into the air rather than sailing the seas! Complementing the Bouguenais factory on the edge of Nantes, the Montoir-de-Bretagne Airbus factory (assembly of the front and central parts of aeroplanes) stands alongside a subcontractor’s site specialising in designing fuselage sub-assemblies (Stelia Aerospace). That puts Saint-Nazaire at the heart of the Airbus logistics chain. It is, for example, in Saint-Nazaire where, after spring 2018, the Airbus parts built all over Europe will be assembled to be transported by sea to the factory Airbus has set up in Mobile (United States).

150 years of history

Just 150 years ago, Saint-Nazaire was a little port with a population of less than 1,000. Napoleon III launched the town’s economy when he decided to set up a shipyard there in 1861 to build large transatlantic ships. To date, more than 120 liners have been built there (not counting warships). Some of them were the biggest and most iconic of their age: Normandie in 1935, France (launched by President de Gaulle in front of 100,000 people) in 1960, Queen Mary 2 in 2003, Harmony of the Seas in 2016, Meraviglia last summer, and the list goes on.

Le Queen Mary 2 dans la forme Joubert en juin 2017. | Photo 2 et 3 : Le lancement du paquebot France en 1960 | Photo 4 : le Normandie à New-York dans les années 30.

Despite its successes, the town has been through difficult times, but it has always bounced back. Today, the shipbuilder’s order books are full, promising work until 2026 to the 2,500 employees on site and large numbers of subcontractors in the area. The shipyard also owes this healthy position to a policy of diversification carried out for many years in the field of renewable marine energies: constructing foundations for off-shore wind turbines and electricity substations.

An interpretation centre for wind power at sea

The wind power exploration centre is a tourist facility so the general public can discover the various facets of wind power at sea (technological, economic development and jobs, environmental) through specific examples from wind farms established near the coast, particularly the one at Banc de Guérande. It will open its doors in winter 2019.

Diversification: the challenge of blue growth

The economic fabric of the Saint-Nazaire basin does not intend to run the risk of depending on a single industry. Businesses and public stakeholders are working together for greater diversification of activities. They confirm this ambition by developing innovative projects.

Le sous-station électrique Arkona construite par les chantiers STX

Shipbuilding rides the wave of success and diversifies

20 years ago, Chantiers de l’Atlantique took a gamble on building liners, offering the infrastructures and organisation suitable for very big ships. But after Queen Mary 2 at the beginning of the 2000s, the shipyard suffered from a lack of orders and crises that led to changes of major shareholders, with Alstom and then STX.

In May 2016, the shipyard delivered Harmony of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world. This giant of the seas symbolises the renovation of shipbuilding in Saint-Nazaire. Backed by the growth in cruising and boosted by the low exchange rate of the euro against the dollar, the shipyards soon filled their order books for several years to come.

This boom has also made it possible to develop a considerable network of shipbuilding and repair subcontractors in the Saint-Nazaire area. By pooling their resources in the clusters of Neopolia they are assured of new openings and, in particular, they have built three river cruise ships for CroisiEurope.

L'Elbe Princesse II en construction.

Alongside this, and looking to the future in order to seize all opportunities and prepare for tomorrow, the Saint-Nazaire area has invested in MRE. Today, this sector is an industrial reality to the point of becoming one of the pillars of Saint-Nazaire’s maritime economy.

MRE, the energy of the future, blows into Saint-Nazaire

As one of the first offshore windfarms in France will be installed off Saint-Nazaire by 2021, the area has made renewable marine energies one of its principal strengths.

Un générateur et une nacelle d'éolienne offshore prêt à partir de l'usine General electrics de Montoir-de-Bretagne

Supported by local groups, the MRE industry in Saint-Nazaire has been developed based on different types of stakeholder: big industrial companies like General Electric (with a factory and 275 employees in Montoir), Siemens and STX; innovative start-ups like Geps Techno; networks and platforms devoted to R&D, such as WeAMEC (West Atlantic Marine Energy Centre); and even SMEs jumping on the train of the future to diversify their expertise by grouping together in the Neopolia MRE. The great seaport has also adapted to respond to the great challenges of the industry and various development projects are in progress.

L'éolienne flottante Floatgen

Looking to the future, Saint-Nazaire is also the birthplace of a promising technology in France: floating wind power. With the installation of the Floatgen demonstrator at the SemRev test site, or even participation in the organisation of the Floating Wind Power Atlantic Forum, the area is positioning itself as leader of an emerging market. It is a wonderful opportunity for local stakeholders to achieve an international breakthrough.

According to the French MRE Observatory, more than 45% of the jobs in this industry in France are concentrated in the Pays de la Loire region. Regionally, the industry has made it possible to create almost 900 jobs and, in 2016, represented turnover of more than 205 million euros, of which 78% came from exports.

The emergence of a “Microalgae Valley” in Saint-Nazaire

The Saint-Nazaire area stands out for its high-quality ecosystem in the field of microalgae. In particular, it has the Génie des Procédés Environnementaux et Agroalimentaires (GEPEA) laboratory, which includes researchers from Nantes University and School of Mining, Oniris and the CNRS. GEPEA has launched an R&D platform, AlgoSolis, based on cutting-edge infrastructures to develop innovative uses. The laboratory is also the origin of AlgoSource, a business based on the estuary which has become one of the leading centres of expertise in microalgae in the world.

The diversity and excellence of the local stakeholders allows Saint-Nazaire to claim the status of “Microalgae Valley” and to forge an international reputation. In June 2017, the 6th trade fair of the International Society for Applied Phycology (ISAP) was held in the Nantes-Saint-Nazaire metropolitan area, bringing together 700 participants from 45 countries.

A booming boating industry

The Saint-Nazaire area has a strong boating industry, with more than 30 businesses. Most of them are established at Pornichet, at the marina or the Pornichet Atlantique activity area, and a third of them are at Saint-Nazaire.

and a third of them are at Saint-Nazaire.

The estuary and coast are bound to attract businesses linked to boating. In the sales/maintenance sector (boat sales, repairs, boat chandlers, etc.): La Baule Nautic, St-Nazaire Service Plaisance, etc.; on the fitting out side (sails, electronics): Hervé Sail Design, Shipelec, Promeca, Sellerie Bâches de L’Estuaire, etc.; or services: Presqu’île Location, Abécédaire Bateau-École, Éole Voile, Holywind, Glisse Évolution, etc.

Analysis from the Nantes/Saint-Nazaire International Chamber of Commerce analyses that boating activity, with a strong presence in the area, accounts for 50 million euros a year in direct and indirect effects on the Loire-Atlantique coast.

Between Pornichet and Saint-Nazaire, the coastal area also appeals to high-added-value businesses excited about the skills offered in the metropolitan ecosystem: at the Pôle Mer Bretagne Atlantique and the Jules-Verne IRT (Technology Research Institute), experts on materials engineering. Here, there is a natural connection between the shipbuilding and boating industries in terms of both construction and design, with marine engineers, consultancy firms, boatyards, companies specialising in composites: Polyecim, François Vivier, François Neuman, Rods Foil, etc.

Innovative ships for sail-powered transport

© Neoline

With the necessary switch to green energy, “soft” transport is becoming popular once again. In the shipping industry, for example, we are seeing a gradual return to sail-powered transport. The Nantes company Neoline has developed an innovative ship, the Neoliner, and the first of them will be built at Saint-Nazaire. This sailing ship will have the unusual feature of two masts arranged on the same axis (duplex rigging), which improves its performance, supported by auxiliary propulsion mixing diesel and electric energy. 136 metres long, it can sail at speeds of up to 13 knots (about 24 km/h) carrying a crew of 15 and 12 passengers with remarkable energy efficiency. In fact, the Neoliner can reduce emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases by up to 90%.

The digital boom

Virtual reality serving industry

Thanks to its top-level industrial businesses, the economic fabric of Saint-Nazaire is going fully digital. The STX shipyard and Airbus depend on innovation and particularly on virtual reality. The CIRV – Industrial Virtual Reality Centre – is a leading European laboratory devoted to uses of virtual reality. Forming part of the Smart Factory Technocampus and linked to the Jules-Verne Technology Research Institute, virtual reality is used to serve area’s industries and businesses: start-ups, SMEs, service providers and training bodies.

Coworking and digital campus

The strength of the digital industry in Saint-Nazaire also includes numerous start-ups. Every year new businesses are founded in the coworking spaces (Periscop, Office Coffee, Carré Coworking, etc.), particularly in the digital sector. In an attempt to nurture this energy, local or regional training stakeholders – IUT de Saint-Nazaire, CESI, CNAM, Lycée Aristide Briand – are announcing schemes to develop new digital courses. And a digital campus bringing together Fab Lab, coworking spaces, business nurseries and training establishments will be set up in Saint-Nazaire town centre by 2020.

Digital: highlights in Saint-Nazaire

Robot competition. 14- and 15-year-old pupils supervised by 16- and 17-year-olds learn to programme a robot throughout the school year. That is the idea of a competition launched by the IBM Sponsorship Division and supported by the Saint-Nazaire District Council.

Digital Week. In September 2017 the famous Nantes Digital Week once again found a successor in Saint-Nazaire to take up the baton: 100 events and more than 8,000 participants!

Fab Lab. Saint-Nazaire will soon have its own digital manufacturing workshop, open to everyone. A project launched by four Audacity award winners, this competition rewards promising talent from the local economy.

Plug IN: a current flowing between digital and industry

Soirée Plug In au Garage de Saint-Nazaire en 2017.

Begun during Digital Week 2016, Plug IN promotes cooperation between industrial and digital businesses in the area. After a day of networking, six industrial businesses, (Airbus Nantes, Daher, ESPACE, ABF, Chicago Pneumatic /Desoutter and Stelia Aerospace) selected six digital stakeholders they want to work with: Abisse, E-cobot, Gobio Robot, Obexto, Productys and We Craft Apps. These start-ups now have the chance to identify new openings. Meanwhile, the industrial firms can source local creativity: a win-win situation.

Driving research and training

There are almost 5,000 students and more than 60 higher-education courses

There are almost 5,000 students and more than 60 higher-education courses* on the Saint-Nazaire university campus and its four seaside sites: Gavy, Océanis, Heinlex and Cité Scolaire. That is not to mention the Nantes campus less than an hour away…

In Saint-Nazaire, industrial courses find the resources for innovation and diversification thanks to a range rich in training and R&D. Two research platforms illustrate this support for business competitiveness in the area: the CIRV (Industrial Virtual Reality Centre), a cutting-edge tool devoted to virtual reality; and AlgoSolis, a leading platform on the industrial exploitation of microalgae.

A lab for every course

In order to strengthen the local value chain, the groups and private stakeholders all support the development of leading courses: civil engineering, process and bioprocess engineering, electrical, mechanical and materials engineering, aeronautics, logistics/purchasing/supply chain and more.

Four university laboratories or research institutes have also strengthened their business courses: the Process, Environmental and Process Engineering Laboratory (GEPEA), the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (GeM), the Nantes Atlantique Institute of Electrotechnical and Electronic Research (IREENA) and the Higher Institute of Maritime Economics (ISEMAR).

*Preparatory classes, Technical Higher Education Diploma (BTS), University Diploma in Technology (DUT), professional licences, licences, masters’ degrees engineering diplomas, specialised masters’ degrees, PhDs, etc.


Copyrights : Ville de Saint-Nazaire : Christian Robert, Martin Launay, Hélène Defoy, Blandine Bouillon, Nicolas Dumez, Bruno Bouvry Imagine Air | Saint-Nazaire agglomération tourisme

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