Have you thought about

checking our FAQ ?

Who can benefit from the NFI services?

4 specific cases:
  • Foreign companies in all sectors looking to expand in Hauts-de-France
  • French companies with no site in Hauts-de-France
  • Hauts-de-France companies with a succession plan
  • Foreign-owned companies in Hauts-de-France with a development project
Our services are not intended for :
  • French or international self-employed entrepreneurs
  • French companies wishing to export
  • International companies seeking distribution networks only

Why as the help of Nord France Invest?

Nord France Invest provides you with completely tailored, free of charge and confidential support. We centralize all the information you need to analyze your project. We facilitate your process to find a site, partners or land. We organize site visits. We accelerate your networking with future regional partners. Find out more about the agency's services on this page.

What type of project can support you in?

The agency supports job-creating investment projects. The nature of projects varies according to 3 main categories:
  • Start-up projects
  • Expansion of existing sites in the region
  • takeovers of regional businesses by international companies.
Nord France Invest's services are not aimed at capital investments.
Check the FAQ

Do you have an expansion project?

Leave us your contact details and we’ll get back to you by e-mail.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Top !
HomeNewsDemystifying France’s Business Environment: A Guide for International Investors

How France Works

A Guide for International Investors

France offers businesses and entrepreneurs many opportunities. Located at the heart of Europe with a highly educated workforce, a robust economy, and a pro-business environment, France is an ideal place to expand your business. Discover why France is so attractive to foreign companies and what you need to know to establish your company.
Date de publication Published on 25.04.2024
Nord France Invest

The Economic Position
of France in Europe

GDP: Robust and Sustainable GDP Growth

Good to Know: France’s domestic market

The French GDP is the third highest in Europe, reaching US $2.63 trillion in 2022. It is projected to gain more momentum and is expected to grow by 1.4% by the end of 2024.1,2

France is the seventh biggest economy by GDP in the world.3 Strong investments and growth in sectors such as energy, banking, tourism and retail continue to propel France’s economy.4,5

France benefits from high-quality infrastructures.

1 Statista & International Trade Administration

3 World Data

4 TC Global

5 CEDEFOP (European Centre for the development of vocational training

The Main Sectors of Activity in France

There are numerous expanding sectors of excellence within France such as:

  • In 2021, France was be the world’s 6th largest exporter of agricultural and agri-food products, with a market share of 4.5%, behind the United States (9.6%), the Netherlands (6.9%), Brazil (5.4%), Germany (5%) and China (4.5%).29
  • The reduction in GHG emissions from the food sector is already underway, with a 21% reduction since 2015, at a faster pace than the manufacturing industry as a whole (-14%). The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least -40% by 2030. 30
  • Technology: France is the world’s second-largest exporter in the aerospace sector.31

Many of them can be found in the Hauts-de-France (HDF) province in Northern France. Hauts-de-France is the biggest automotive region, home to major logistics companies, and is ranked as the third best-performing region for agrifood companies in France.

29 Ministère de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation, 2022

30 (source : Rapport SECTEN CITEPA de Mars 2023 avec les données provisoires de 2022)

31 Invest in France

Why Hauts-de-France is an Attractive Region for Foreign Companies

For the fourth consecutive year, France is the number one country in Europe for foreign development and investment projects.8 Hauts-de-France stands out by being the 2nd French Region for foreign direct investments in terms of jobs and the 3rd French region in terms of projects. On a European scale, Northern France is the 8th European region for foreign direct investments in terms of projects.

The battery sector in Northern France is rapidly expanding with four gigafactories established since 2020. There have also been recent major investments from the Taiwanese group ProLogium and the Chinese group XTC New Energy Materials.10,11

8 EY 2023

10 Reuters

11 RFI

Hauts-de-France map

The Perception of Made in France Across Europe and the World

The Made in France merchandising label is now well-regarded across the world as a symbol of quality. According to the Made-In-Country Index, France came 8th with an index of 81/1001 in 2017. Only products and goods that have been produced in France and meet exacting standards can carry this trademark.

The British company Usleep specifically chose Dourges in the Hauts-de-France region to base its new manufacturing plant. One of the main reasons for the decision was so that the company could benefit from the Made in France label.

Luciano Biondo, former president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing France, was quoted as saying: “Our salespeople say it (the Made in France label) makes a big difference. A car’s origin is often third or fourth on the list of priorities for customers, and French-made vehicles carry a lot of clout—especially in the domestic market.”

🔎 Read more about the Made in France label in the Debunking Myths white paper.

1 Satista

How to Set Up
a Business in France

Establishing a business in France is easier with the right partner. By forging a partnership with Nord France Invest, you can streamline the process of setting up a business in France.

There are five steps to setting up a business in France in terms of administrative procedures:

  • Choose the right business structure
  • Prepare a draft of the legal notice for your business
  • Choose the correct legal status and draw up your charter and bylaws
  • Deposit share capital in a bank account
  • Complete the company declaration and registration process

More information can be found in this guide from Nord France Invest.

Why Use an Economic Promotion Agency
to Set Up Your Business in France?

Economic promotion agencies are staffed with people who are experts in their regional economy. If you want to stay long-term in France, you can benefit greatly from their local knowledge and business expertise. An economic promotion agency such as Nord France Invest can streamline the process of establishing your company in the Hauts-de-France region. The support provided is tailored to your needs. If you need assistance in doing paperwork, finding the right site or getting introduced to the local ecosystem, Nord France Invest can help you.

Additionally, your business can receive diverse financial and operational services from a trusted institution, including:

  • Creating bank accounts
  • Getting access to financial services such as private equity
  • Providing easier access to bank loans
  • Streamlining the recruitment process in France

The advantage of using an eco-promotion agency is that it centralizes the entire information research phase and streamlines implementation by having only one main contact. With the Nord France Invest network, you can have easy access to the right people at the right time. And last but not least, our services are provided entirely for free!

Flexible Ways to Do Business in France

Nord France Invest provides foreign investors in the Hauts-de-France region of France with comprehensive assistance in establishing business ventures.

Our expert provide companies with support for companies that wish to invest and create a subsidiary locally to serve the French market and export all around the world.

Nord France Invest provides investors in Northern France assistance in developing their business on our territory for free and 100% confidentially.

Soft-landing solution for British companies: UK Business Centre Lille

For British companies, the UK Business Centre Lille is also available. It aims to help those facing difficulties accessing the French and EU markets since Brexit. It can provide you with tailored support in terms of:

  • Tax representation
  • Customs representation
  • Business development
  • Legal matters
  • Finance/banking
  • Logistics
  • Retail/ecommerce
  • Setting up in Hauts-de-France

Setting Up Contracts

For strategic projects considering to set-up in the Hauts de France Region, we have developed a “setting-up contract” to enable companies to establish themselves seamlessly. The contract gathers in a single document various commitments and support from public authorities dedicated to your investment projects.

This process is unique in France and greatly simplifies the expansion of businesses. It is a moral contract that demonstrates the strong commitment of local authorities in their desire to support businesses as best as possible throughout the setting up process.

The contract includes:

  • deadlines for issuing agreements;
  • administrative permits;
  • recruitment and training support;
  • incentives;
  • tax exemptions;

The contract will allow you to quickly set up a team dedicated to your project via the state, regional, or local authority. You can reduce deadlines up to seven months instead of 10-12 for environmental authorizations and building permits. As an employer, the employment and recruitment process can be facilitated via a strong partnership with the national and regional job agencies.

Employing Staff
in France

Having a good understanding of how employment laws work in France will help your business to attract top talent.

The rights of workers 💼

It’s imperative for any company to fully understand employment rights in France. By having a good grasp of the advantages of the French labour market compared to the rest of Europe, companies can optimise their employment structures.
French law states that the benchmark working hours for an employed person per week is 35. For all jobs, any time over this is classed as overtime. Whilst this is a benefit for employees, it also has implications for employers.
Nord France Invest can advise you on these to ensure you comply with the legal requirements relating to professional employment.

Work schedules ⏰

The 35-hour work week is set in French law not as a limit but rather as a benchmark. A contractual agreement can be made where an employee can work more hours in return for a fixed salary that compensates them for overtime. Additional hours can also be offset by providing bonus paid leave. The maximum workweek is set at 48 hours, but even this can be exceeded if authorisation has been given by the inspector general’s office.

Companies are allowed to hire more workers if they need them during peak periods and offer workers partial furloughs if demand decreases.

Dismissal laws ⚖️

There are strict laws regarding dismissals in France. Minimum and maximum compensation limits were set in 2017. If an employee is terminated without cause, they can be awarded between 3 to 3.5 months of salary or between 3 and 20 months depending on seniority. The guidelines are only applicable, however, if the dismissal is deemed null and void. The number of litigation cases involving dismissals has halved over the last two decades and is no longer an inevitable outcome. Dismissal costs are considerably cheaper in France compared to countries such as Belgium or Germany.

🔎Caroline Barbe, partner for Solucial, a law firm was interviewed to better understand the legal framework: Discover more

Work contracts 📝

The minimum gross hourly wage in France is currently €11.52. The cost of labour in metropolitan France in cities such as Paris has been estimated to be €34 per hour with the bulk of the costs going towards gross wages and salaries and employers’ social contributions.13

However this can vary depending on the region. Wage costs in the Hauts-de-France region are more competitive than in other French regions. According to an EY study conducted in 2020, labour costs break down as follows:

  • Back-office services: – 22% than the average of our European competitors and -14% than our French competitors
  • Logistics: – 34% than the average of our European competitors and -9% than our French competitors
  • Production: – 27% than the average of our European competitors and -13% than our French competitors
  • Technology: – 20% than the average of our European competitors and -11% than our French competitors

🔎 You can use this tool to compare payroll costs in Northern France to costs in other French regions.


Social protection 📄

The French social security system is based on mutual insurance contributions shared by the employer and the employee. The average share of contributions for an employer is approximately 40% of an employee’s gross salary, but it depends on the location, size, and type of the business.14 These contributions cover:

  • health insurance;
  • retirement insurance;
  • unemployment, pensions;
  • family allowances;

The French social security system provides companies with a large degree of flexibility and adaptability if they choose the right location for their enterprise and enlist the right partners.

14 Boundless hq

Trade Unions 🤝

Trade union membership in France is low, with only 11% of employees belonging to a trade union.15 However, trade unions are still powerful entities in France. The right to trade union representation depends on the size of the company. Companies with more than 50 employees must nominate trade union delegates. Companies with 11-49 employees must have a Social and Economic Committee.16

As Eric Moyère, General Manager, Communication and Business Planning, at Toyota explains: “The 3rd reason lies in the commitment and motivation of the teams. To illustrate this idea, every two years, we carry out a satisfaction survey on our network of factories and the Valenciennes site, these last 4 years being the European site which receives the most positive opinions. This can be explained by the quality of social dialogue which can be described as responsible and peaceful.”

15 Worker participation

16 HSF notes

Innovation and Talent
in France

France is a dynamic and innovative country that is home to 31 of the world’s 500 most powerful companies along with many competitiveness clusters.17 The Hauts-de-France region is well represented with burgeoning agri-food, automotive, and logistics sectors.

17 Campus France

Human capital is one of France’s main assets. A significant proportion of French people attain university qualifications. 50% of 25-34-year-olds attained a tertiary qualification in 2021 compared to an average of 47% across OECD countries. 20   The synergy between the academic world and businesses makes it possible to carry out concrete R&D projects for the private sphere.

The Hauts-de-France region is a top centre for university education and continuing education. It is the third largest French region for education with more than 240,000 students and seven universities.

Northern France has over 40 specialised training institutions. There are:

  • 21 engineering schools,
  • 16 schools for business and management,
  • 67 specialised schools for subjects such as art, design, communication, journalism, architecture, and multimedia.

20 GPS Education


There are many training programs designed to meet the recruitment needs of manufacturers. These include winning programs from France 2030 such as:

  • The Electro’mob programme focuses on electric battery technology and is supported by the GIP FCIP of Lille.
  • The C-DECIDE project aims to develop a complete training program (initial or continuing) up to the doctorate level. Its final objective is to create an “Academy of Industrial Decarbonization”, which would be a first in France.
  • The FODUBLIVE programme also focuses on electric battery technology and is supported by Envision AESC France SAS.
  • The CYBER-INDUS programme focuses on cybersecurity supported by the GIP FCIP of Lille.
  • The Dig-Scale programme deals with digitalization and decarbonization mobility solutions and is supported by the Artois Hauts-de-France CCI and the Euralogistic Cluster.
  • The DEFFI-TL programme also focuses on digitalization and decarbonization mobility solutions and is supported by AFT.

There are also many programmes specifically to help job seekers, such as:

  • Proch’emploi, a system run by the region Hauts-de-France to link jobseekers with employers.
  • The GSK training centre provides training for septic production operators, automation experts, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, chemical engineers, maintenance technicians and more.
  • Battery Training Center in Douvrin operated by Stellantis supports the transition of employees from the Douvrin thermal engine manufacturing site to emerging electric mobility professions.
job seeker

Competitiveness Clusters in France

The presence of cluster is very important because they enable companies to build competitive advantages at commercial and strategic levels.

Overall, there are approximately 71 competitiveness clusters in France.21 Seven of the top-performing competitiveness clusters are located in the Hauts-de-France region: Aquimer, Bioeconomy For Change, I-Trans, Clubster NSL, Team2, Euramaterials, and Cap Digital Transport.

These clusters are supported by numerous centres of excellence which provide technological skills such as the Smart Specialisation Strategy, the Agence Hauts-De-France, as well as regional schools and universities. The focus of these competitiveness clusters is on developing skills in sectors such as retail, nutrition and health, consumer goods, seafood, agricultural resources, and eco-business. Northern France is also a leader in R&D for the plant-derived chemistry sector, the agri-food sector, and the automotive sector.22

21 DGE

22 Welcome to France

Research Tax Credit

The R& D tax credit can be a huge asset for your company in France. Currently, the R&D tax credit is equal to 30% of a business’s eligible annual research and development expenses up to €100 million per year and 5% over this amount.23


Recruitment in France

There is no shortage of qualified professionals in France but recruiting skilled workers can be challenging.

Nord France Invest can assist businesses with effective recruitment solutions. Our expertise and network allow you to find the right talent for your first employees and locate future managers of a unit or a key technical profile. Using experienced intermediaries such as Pole Emploi, for example, Nord France Invest can help you to identify the right talent for all jobs in your project. Additionally, in Northern France, local authorities support established companies via specific recruitment programmes. Proch’ Emploi is the structure created by the Hauts-de-France Region to connect companies and job seekers. They regularly organise job dating events and they also have dedicated training programmes.

in France

Staying on top of tax obligations is essential for any company or entrepreneur looking to start a business in France.

Corporation Tax 💼

France has gradually lowered the corporate tax rate since 2017 to reach the European level. At present, the corporate tax rate in France stands at 25%.24

24 Trading Economics

Territorial Economic Contribution 🌐

All self-employed people and businesses in France must contribute to the company property levy (CFE) and the contribution on the added value (CVAE). The CFE is based on the rental value of properties used for professional purposes and the CVAE is calculated on the added value produced in the reference year for taxation.25

25 French Business Advice

VAT in France 🚚

Sales of goods and provision of services are liable for Value Added Tax (VAT) in France with some exemptions. VAT in France is charged at four levels: 26

  • Reduced rate of 10% for unprocessed agricultural products
  • Reduced rate of 5.5% for most food products, feminine hygiene products, condoms, equipment and services for the disabled, books on all media, gas and electricity subscriptions, supply of heat from renewable energies, etc.
  • Special rate of 2.1%: reserved for medicines reimbursable by social security, and sales of live butchery and charcuterie animals to non-taxable persons.If your company does not meet the VAT turnover threshold, you may be eligible for a VAT exemption.

26 Ministère de l’économie, des finances et de la souveraineté industrielle et numérique

Supply Chain

British companies have been having more difficulties to adapt their supply chain to access the EU market smoothly. While many of these issues are linked to Brexit, other factors are now impacting the global supply chain.

Tougher measures now need to be taken into account to access the EU market:

PEACS Report

Nord France Invest worked with Bob Hancké from the LSE and Laurenz Mathei from the PEACS cabinet to create an exclusive report about trading conditions after Brexit.
Read the report
PEACS Report

The Hauts-de-France is the closest continental neighbour to the United Kingdom and can be the ideal gateway for British companies. Logistics is historically rooted in the Region which makes it the ideal location to deliver your goods. Since 2010, the Territorial Economic Contribution has replaced the business levy on equipment and movable property (PT), further lowering the cost of supply chain processes.

The immediate proximity of the Hauts-de-France region to the UK and the excellent transport infrastructures allow for fluid deliveries to European customers without the difficulties some UK companies face because of complications due to Brexit.

The cost of commercial properties in the Hauts-de-France region can help businesses gain a significant competitive advantage over competitors located in the UK and elsewhere.27 The cost of a warehouse in Northern France is 31% less than the average of our European competitors and offices are 52% less than the average.

By developing in the region, British companies can also benefit from tailored support from Nord France Invest – the Investment Promotion Agency for Hauts-de-France – as well as the UK Business Centre Lille – a soft-landing solution for British companies.

27 Nord France Invest

An example of this is the recent €40 million investment made by the acrylic fiber manufacturer Dickson-Constant. The company invested in the Hauts-de-France region to enhance its production capacity and meet increased customer demand with the support of Nord France Invest.

“We have to deliver our customers increasingly rapidely because they hardly keep stocks. From Portugal, we were able to deliver the entirity of Europe in 48 hours. However, from the Hauts-de-France Region, 80% of our client can be delivered in 24 hours.”

Eugène Deleplanque, CEO of Dickson Constant

Sustainable Business Initiatives
in France

“The French market is also a driving market, particularly on all subjects linked to CSR and sustainable development. We have launched several initiatives there which have been or will be taken over by the group, such as the activity of recovery of furniture and cleaning of buildings.”

Mickaël Locoh, VP Southern Europe and Africa, Steelcase.

Responsible consumption is on the rise in Europe, especially in France. According to a recent study, 62.4% of respondents are concerned about the environmental impact of the goods that they purchase.28 Traditional activities such as steel production are rapidly implementing decarbonisation programs.  Major investments from leading firms such as ArcelorMittal are driving the development of more sustainable steel production methods in the Hauts-de-France region.

In 2020, the average number of tons per inhabitant in Europe was 13.65, compared to a high of 18.96 in 2007. In comparison, France has been below the EU average consistently since 2007, when the average tons per inhabitant was 16.15 in 2020. This dramatically reduced to 10.90 in 2020.

Renewable energy sources are rapidly gaining ground in France and providing cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. France is investing in sustainable energy infrastructure, paving the way for a future powered by green technologies. By embracing these energy sources, businesses can significantly reduce carbon emissions to climate change.

One of the most prominent activities in sustainable business is recycling. Gone are the days when discarded items were considered waste. From the reuse of paper and plastic to the decarbonisation of steel to reduce CO2, every action counts. Li-Cycle’s expansion is a good example of that, by setting up in the region, the company is going to be able to recycle Lithium-ion batteries

France is also at the forefront of sustainability initiatives such as France 2030. This project has a budget of €54 billion to dedicate to eco-friendly projects throughout the country. These include:

  • The production of zero carbon emission electric vehicles
  • The use of intelligent agricultural equipment
  • Biodiversity in food production
  • Biomedical research.

28 U Montpellier

France 2030 is aimed at promoting sustainable development throughout the country. The Hauts-de-France region is leading the way with the REV3 initiative, a dynamic and exceptional initiative that involves the entire region. It aims to increase rates of decarbonisation and encourage the transition to a circular economy.

REV 3 also has a fund to support the implementation and development of projects that concern ecological or digital transformation. Expanding into the Hauts-de-France region is an ideal move for companies that want to enhance their environmental credentials.

The Hauts-de-France region demonstrates its commitment to sustainability and in particular to the transition to electrical mobility with our “Gigavalley”, already comprised of four gigafactories.

REV3 initiative

Key points
to remember

To conclude, the business environment in France is not as complex as it looks once you have all of the necessary information. Here are the key points to keep in mind from this article

Point #1

First and foremost, you don’t have to conduct your development project alone. Investment promotion agencies are here to support you for FREE and confidentially. Nord France Invest – the Investment promotion agency for Hauts-de-France – can assist you to set up on our territory. On top of that, the UK Business Centre Lille – a soft-landing solution Made in Hauts-de-France dedicated to British companies – can assist you in accessing the EU market smoothly with the help of experts.

Point #2

The Hauts-de-France Region has created a setting-up contract for international companies to set-up without hurdles. The contract gathers in a single document various commitments and support from public authorities dedicated to companies’ investment projects.

Point #3

The legal framework for employees is not as complex and tedious as international companies might think it is.

Point #4

Finding talent and skills can be easy with the help of public structures such as Pole Emploi of even Proch’Emploi (created by the Hauts-de-France Region). They can help connect companies with job seekers and organise job-dating events. Payroll costs differ from cities to cities, they are some of the most attractive in Hauts-de-France in comparison with other French and European cities

Point #5

The closest continental European territory of the UK is the Hauts-de-France. With a strong history in the logistics sector, it can help you achieve efficient flow of goods to access European customers.

Point #6

The French government is committed to favour sustainable development projects through programmes such as France 2030. Similarly, the Hauts-de-France has created REV3 to support sustainable investment projects on our territory.

Do you have an expansion project?
Start your support

You want to develop your company in region? Experts specialized in helping companies set-up in Hauts-de-France are waiting for you.

  • 01Select your type of investment
  • 02Describe your project
  • 03We will get back to you within 48 hours
Contact us
Do you have an expansion project?

In a rush?
We contact you back!

We’ll get back to you as soon as possible to answer any questions you may have about your development project.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Discover other
articles about