Many countries have found it an economic and political necessity to have an overview of the SMEs.

For Fourteen years now, Bpifrance’s SME Observatory has performed this task for France with the backing of many reference partners.

With SME 2018, the SME Observatory publishes for the third time an English summarized report of its annual report on French SMEs and intermediate-sized enterprises (ISEs).

2018 SME Report: 2017 was a record year, and confirmed the increase in SME and ISE business



SME and ISE 2017 indicators are set fair, led by an ever more favourable French macroeconomic environment. They have consolidated the upwards trend observed for the third year running.


2017 highlights

  • The creation of new businesses continued to grow in almost all sectors and regions of France, at a faster pace than the previous year and reaching peaks not seen since the beginning of the decade, to stand at 591,000.
  • Meanwhile, the number of business failures fell again, irrespective of age, size and location, to below its pre-crisis level, standing at 55,300. Under these circumstances, the number of jobs under threat from insolvency proceedings also fell below the 200,000 mark for the first time in ten years to stand at 172,000.
  • SME shareholders’ equity and total turnover were up for the third year running, and their capital expenditure increased in all sectors of the economy with the exception of Commerce, which saw a significant decline, offsetting the increases elsewhere.
  • These SMEs, and primarily micro-enterprises, are contributing to the rise in French goods exports and consolidating their own performance year-on-year, with a 4.6% increase in exports by value for micro-enterprises and 1% for non-micro-enterprises SMEs.
  • In terms of financing, private equity activity reached new highs in 2017, with a fifth year of rising investment (€14.3bn) into a record number of companies (2,142) and capital inflows at their highest for twenty years (€16.5bn).
  • France also remains one of the most favourable countries in terms of SME access to bank lending, as illustrated* by the continued rise in lending (+3.7%, higher than the median for OECD countries), lower interest rates, the rise in loan applications approved by lenders, and the lowest number of requests for guarantees. France is again in the lead with just 5% of SMEs required to provide fresh guarantees to secure a loan.
  • As regards R&D, SMEs still account for more than three quarters of businesses carrying out in-house R&D and one sixth of in-house R&D expenditure, and remain the category of business devoting the highest proportion of its turnover to R&D work (7.9% compared to 2.7% for all businesses as a whole)*.
  • Over 9,800 businesses have benefited from France’s innovative start-up (JEI) scheme in its 14 years of existence. In 2017, some 3,800 companies participated in the scheme, 902 of which had joined that same year, a record number since it was introduced in 2004.
  • At the same time, SMEs that were members of a competitiveness cluster outperformed their rivals in terms of both turnover growth (+28 percentage points relative to comparable SMEs that were not clusters-members) and increased headcount (+18 points)*.

*Most recent available data: 2016.

The 2018 SME Report  contains a wealth of economic and financial analyses of their developments in 2017, supported by data series covering the past five to ten years to better understand how their situation has changed over time.

So choose a subject and let yourself be guided through its content.


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Bpifrance’s SME Observatory has performed this 2017 SME Report with the backing of French as well as international partners.

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To catch up with the latest news that will be published all along the year 2018.

Read the english writings about the previous SME Reports