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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
French look to technology boost
French President Jacques Chirac
President Chirac is backing a series of futuristic projects
French President Jacques Chirac is backing six large projects which are designed to improve French industrial prestige at a difficult time.

This month the government was forced to withdraw a controversial labour law aimed at young workers.

Mr Chirac said a body set up last year, the Agency for Industrial Innovation, had 2bn euros (1.4bn) for projects.

The programmes "will focus us on technological challenges... essential for our future", Mr Chirac said.

He pointed out that China spends five times more on research than France.

Also, only one French company appeared in a recent survey of the top 30 companies around the world that invest in research.

The plans would give government backing to encourage French companies and universities to collaborate on R&D projects.

Electric cars

Projects include the Franco-German Quaero scheme to create an internet search engine to deliver information to computers and mobile phones.

Neoval is a project to build a new generation of trains, while Homes aims to use a new system of heating and lighting to reduce energy consumption within buildings by a fifth.

Alcatel will look to develop TVMSL, a new European standard for delivering high-quality television to mobile phones.

Further plans include ambitions to create refineries powered by agricultural products such as biofuel, and a project to create hybrid cars powered by diesel and electricity.

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