Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2017

Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2017




71.2 billion €

Number of companies


Direct employees


National contact

Union des Industries Chimiques (UIC)

Magali Smets

Director General


Chemical industry snapshot

A key contributor to the French economy

The chemical industry is a key component of the French economy. Industry added value was estimated at €18.5 billion in 2016, more than 8% of the country’s manufacturing added value, ranking chemicals third behind the food and beverages and metallurgy.

The chemical industry is a leading industrial exporter, second only to aerospace. It accounts for 13% of total manufacturing exports and with a €7.4 billion trade surplus, chemicals ranks third only to aerospace and medicines in its positive contribution to the national balance of trade.

A leading employer

The chemical industry in France has 3,335 companies, of which 94% are SMEs and nearly 6,000 production sites. Its companies employ 164,000 people, 6% of French manufacturing workers, and generate 500,000 indirect jobs.

Serving consumers too

French output ranges from basic chemicals to specialty and fine chemicals. The industry is strong in consumer chemicals, including soaps, detergents, cosmetics and perfumes.

The strategic role of the chemical industry in the development of a sustainable economy is clearly recognised by the French government and the Ministry of Industry.

Chemical industry – key figures

A major exporter

When fine chemicals for pharmaceuticals are included, the chemical industry generated turnover of €71.2 billion in 2016, of which 76% was exported. Around 62% of exports go elsewhere within the European Union.

Investing in the future

Capital investment was €3.3 billion in 2016, equal to 18% of added value. Modernization, safety and environmental improvements accounted for 75% of the total.

Another €1.8 billion, around 10% of added value, was invested in research and development, nearly 8% of all French industrial research spending.

Organised into competitive clusters

In France, 31 competitiveness clusters have links to chemicals and materials. Seven are totally or partially dedicated to chemicals:

  • AXELERA in Rhône-Alpes (Lyon)
  • TRIMATEC in three regions: Languedoc-Roussillon, PACA and Rhône-Alpes
  • IAR in Hauts de France
  • XYLOFUTUR in Aquitaine (Bordeaux)
  • ELASTOPOLE in Centre region
  • MATIKEM in Hauts de France
  • PLASTIPOLIS in Rhône-Alpes

UIC has signed a partnership with Axelera, Trimatec and IAR to speed up innovation sharing with companies, especially SMEs.

Key chemical innovation clusters


  • 1st for the production of chemicals in France
  • 2nd in terms of employment
  • More than 500 private companies
  • 31,500 people directly employed (excluding pharmaceuticals)
  • Leading sector for exports
  • 2nd industrial sector in terms of turnover
  • 15% of industrial investments


  • Strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe
  • Main olefin provider with refinery and steam-cracker plants
  • Concentration of major French and international groups, and many mid- cap and small companies
  • Three top competitiveness boosters: Axelera, world-class cluster for chemistry and environment, Lyon Polymer Science & Engineering, public/private research organization studying polymerization and polymeric materials and Axel’One, collaborative platform for innovative R&D projects (cleantech, processes and materials)
  • Good local transport links and connections to the Swiss, Italian and German markets
  • Universities, engineering schools and research centres in Lyon, Grenoble and St-Etienne
  • Strong commitment by public and private sectors to maintain upstream (basic chemistry) and develop downstream activities (specialty chemistry) and promote sustainable and innovative chemistry


  • 2.1% of regional employment, and 1,621 companies employing more than 100 people
  • 80% of national of oil and additives production (40% of European production), 25% of olefins and 50% of plastics and elastomers
  • Europe’s leading fertilizer producer
  • €2 billion invested over the past seven years to improve production and meet new environmental standards

Normandy benefits from a dynamic economy and its chemical industry is vital high technology sector.


  • Highly specialised companies in petrochemicals, additives & lubricants and crop-protection
  • Highly efficient port at Le Havre, Europe’s fifth-largest
  • Global companies including Total, Exxon Mobil and Arkema, backed by SMEs
  • Sustained innovation via Nov&atech, linen sector, CBS technopolis, Nov@log technical centres
  • Public and private stakeholders support further industrialization


  • 3% of French GDP and 5.2% of exports
  • 3rd largest region for jobs
  • 16,000 workers
  • About 450 private companies, of which 80% are SMEs
  • Port of Marseille, a gateway to Mediterranean markets

Marseille/Etang de Berre is a major cluster for liquid bulk hydrocarbons and chemicals. Demand benefits from the growth of aerospace, energy and and micro-electronics.

Further east Grasse is a long-standing centre for fragrances, whose rapid growth is driven by luxury sector and demand for bio-sourced raw materials.


  • 5% of European olefins production
  • Major chemical companies: Ineos, LyondellBasell, Kem’One, and Total Petrochemicals
  • 40% of French capacity for chlorine and its derivatives
  • Strong universities and research centre support focused green chemistry under a collaborative policy embracing regional authority and stakeholders

Strengthening support among regional public authorities for chemicals to play a significant role in the regional post-carbon economy. Regional policy encourages the development of SMEs and supports clusters like NOVACHIM to develop the chemical industry and foster innovation.

HAUTS DE FRANCE (formerly Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie regions)

  • The leading industrial employer
  • 200 enterprises
  • 13% of industrial employment
  • 14,600 workers
  • Global producers including Arkema, Dow Chemical Company, Procter & Gamble, BASF, L’Oréal, Clariant, and SMEs

The chemical industry in Hauts de France is competitive and innovative. Focused high added value products, it contributes to the economic and industrial development and sustainable growth.


  • A strategic geographical situation
  • World-class competitiveness clusters focused on chemicals and materials: dedicated Industries & Agro-Resources (IAR), bio refining Cluster I-Trans (Transports), UP’TEX (textiles), Materalia (materials), MATIKEM (materials)
  • A young population and universities, engineering schools, technical centres that partner with the chemical industry
  • Sound infrastructure, logistics and multi-modal transport
  • A large bio-mass potential of plant materials
  • Innovation fostered by the development of a green chemical industry aided by (sustainable chemicals) with notably bio-chemistry institute PIVERT, the Oilseed Bio-refinery of the Future, and the BRI and IMPROVE platforms


  • 367 companies with more than 50 employees, mostly large and mid-sized companies
  • 3% of French GDP (2010)
  • More than 52,000 employees
  • A strong marketing focus
  • Strong in specialty chemistry
  • 40% are international companies

With Paris as its centre Ile-de-France benefits from the presence corporate offices, production sites and research centres. Arkema, Air Liquide, Solvay, PCAS, L’Oréal, BASF, Dow Chemical, Henkel, Bayer, and Total Petrochemicals are active in the region.


  • New profitable segments developing within the luxury sector: perfumes and cosmetics
  • Strong synergy between world-class universities and other laboratories fosters innovation, speeding development of green and environmental chemistry, notably CEA, CNRS, and the Institut Pierre et Marie Curie
  • World-class top education institutions, including Ecole Polytechnique, Chimie Paris Tech, and Centrale

How are we doing?


  • Large industrial market with global leaders in energy, transport, aerospace, perfumes and cosmetics and, water treatment
  • Renowned environmental and process expertise
  • High-capacity for innovation with a SusChem France roadmap
  • A leader in bio-based chemistry
  • Fiscal incentives, notably the research tax credit
  • Highly educated young people and an effective training system
  • A great location and transport infrastructure
  • Nuclear energy and low GHG emissions
  • Many SMEs, an innovative ecosystem and strong marketing and production


  • Dependence on imported raw materials
  • Low acceptance of chemical industry and products by the French public
  • Too many national regulatory initiatives regarding chemicals

Our contribution to a competitive Europe

The French chemical industry’s Strategy Committee for Chemicals and Materials, has drawn up a plan for:

  • Competitiveness based on:
        – More innovation
        – Favourable economic, fiscal and regulatory conditions
        – Long-term access to energy and raw materials at competitive prices
        – A supportive business environment for chemical, industry investment
        – Strong regional clusters
        – Integration of chemicals and materials into promising downstream industries, such as materials, composites and healthcare
  • Sustainability: developing a sustainable economy focusing on renewable energy, resources and recycling
  • Attractiveness: offering more innovative products and technologies to customers, and aligning jobs and skills with industry prospects

Smartening up

UIC leads the SusChem National Platform and helps SMEs participate in European projects, while helping them promote their products and know-how to big chemical companies, to aid innovation partnering. UIC promotes regional smart specialisation and international collaboration, and is closely involved on dedicated topics between different countries (example of Bioeconomy in Hauts de France).

So it can be underlined that representation of French chemical industries is very high in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.