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International Research and Consulting

Providing international business research, workshops, multinational team building and developing strategies responding to "green" environmental legislations as well as market needs in association with
PIO International Research & Consulting Ltd., Panama City, Panama

Global Forum

Our research provides insight into initiatives driven by EU on the importance of environmental matters and its impact on human resources as well as business practices. New emerging legislative initiatives create an overall pressure to curb adverse effects on the environment as a result of manufacturing processes and resulting end products. Some examples of such environmental legislation include:
  • REACH - Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals
  • RoHS Directive - Restriction of Hazardous Substances
  • EuP -- Directive 2005/32/EC on the Eco-Design of Energy-using Products
  • GHG - Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The legislative mandates within the broader scope of "green"-conscious environmental activities and policies that have been increasingly implemented by corporations. Those include:
  • EIA -- Environmental impact assessment, a process of predicting and evaluating the impacts of specific developments or actions on the environment
  • Environmental Impact Statement - a report resulting from an environmental impact assessment
  • EMAS - Eco-Management and Audit System, a voluntary European Union regulation strengthening ISO 14001 in key areas including public access and third party verification
  • Eco-Labeling - a scheme in which a product or service may be awarded an ecological label on the basis of its acceptable level of environmental impact

Information Kaleidoscope

The Telecom Valley of France Sophia Antipolis Cultural Diversity

In today's globalization of world trade, many businesses recognize the fact that it is critical to tap into the skills and insights of a diverse workforce in order to compete successfully in the new global economy. However, diversity does not only bring opportunities but challenges as well, and sometimes one hears business leaders wonder where the success stories on cultural diversity are.
Over 30 years ago, a Science and Technology Park in France was developed with a vision of creating synergy between technology and cultural diversity.
"We want Sophia Antipolis to be one of the world's primary cradles of creativity - which is best accomplished through the shock of combining cultures. This could mean putting an American next to a European, but it could also mean putting an artist next to a computer sci-entist."
(Senator Pierre Laffitte)

It is from this concept that Sophia Antipolis evolved and today, it is blessed with an exceptional social, economic, cultural and technology environment. Bordered by Provencal villages, Sophia is nestled in the hills overlooking Cannes, Antibes and Nice. International entrepreneurs and professionals who would come to the French Riviera as tourists quickly realized the potential for economic growth in establishing their business in Sophia. Blue chip companies quickly followed by SME's established their offices in the fields of: IT, Biotechnology, Health and Science and R&D.
Sophia currently ranks among one of the leading science parks in Europe with over 30,000 employees representing more than 65 nationalities and it spans a space equivalent to a quarter of the surface area of Paris.

So, why Sophia attracted so many people and business dreams from all over the world?

I would not say it was quite as easy as the proverb from the movie Field of Dreams; "If you build it .. they will come "; however, Sophia was able to create a synergy between technology/ research, environment and cultural diversity. In fact, it is the interaction and the dynamic between these factors that have contributed to the success of Sophia. It should also be mentioned that the vision was put into reality with the collaboration and enthusiasm of local and regional community leaders and through the execution of a "strategizing" marketing approach.


The concept of the environment played a critical role in the development and the success of the technopole. In fact, the technology park was not created only on economic terms, but also on a social and cultural level. As a result, Sophia is also known because of its concern for urban development, the environment and its repercussions on society as a whole. As an example, one of the basic principles for the development of the park was that two-thirds of it had to remain as green space and only one-third could be devoted to business activity, residential dwellings and recreational areas. The quality of the surroundings was seen as a priority in order to generate a creative environment, attract international candidates and enhance the quality of life. Also, the proximity of Nice International Airport, second largest airport in France after Paris, facilitated the growth of the technopole. According to the book written by Kotler, Asplund, Rein & Haider " Marketing Places in Europe " they concluded that the lessons to be learned from Sophia were as follows: (1) the importance of cooperative and goal-oriented planning among communities and business leaders are essential to attract potential investors ; (2) the necessity for long-term planning as opposed to quick-fix solutions; in fact, Sophia could not have existed as a creative center without a long-term development ; (3) the success of a "focus design" demonstrating that Sophia was able to build itself around growing technology, arts and cultural diversity. These factors were instrumentals not only to the realization of the park's twenty year plan, but they also offered buyers a clear set of benefits to boost the park's marketing potential.

Innovation Park

Sophia Antipolis, internationally-recognized as one of the leading Technology Park in Europe, is not, however; about the great telecoms or biotechnology companies located on the site but it's about innovation. Sophia is a habitat for innovation and entrepreneurship. Always has been since its inception and has been one of the keys for the success of the Park. Indeed, we can hear executives and managers of Sophia based-companies saying: "Sophia Antipolis is a place where the grey matter likes to settle down to stay and prosper". One of the main reasons for companies to locate in Sophia is the opportunity to collaborate and partner with compatible companies from other countries and the facility to recruit international candidates. In fact, foreign firms account for about one-third of Sophia's growth and represents almost 25 percent of its employment. Sophia is host to hundreds of leading international companies including IBM, Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, Lucent, Nortel Networks, Philips Semiconductors, Amadeus, Siemens, Allergan and many more; representing the most advanced areas of the information and health care technology. Sophia also houses leading profit and non profit organizations such as ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), whose mission is to produce the telecommunications standards that will be used for decades to come throughout Europe and beyond.
Although Sophia seems to enjoy great benefits, it was not immune against the dot-com explosion and the financial crisis in the telecommunication sector. Companies, especially the HR departments, were faced with downsizing and reorganization. However, the strength of innovation and entrepreneurship coming from the extraordinary pool of international talent (who had settle down to stay and prosper) offered the unique ability to commercialize new ideas into high-value products and services. Today, Sophia is adjusting rapidly to the technological changes in order to continue to be on the leading edge of the next-wave of innovation. To this end, it relies greatly on its international skilled workforce.

Cultural Diversity

Sophia's location is at a true international crossroads, with more than 20% of its population from outside France: Britons, Germans, Italians, Americans, Canadians, Scandinavians are among the 65+ nationalities who are present in the Sophia Antipolis technology park. This cosmopolitan environment creates attractive international recruitment possibilities and allows businesses to recruit for substantial growth with highly competent and qualified applicants. Further, the Sophia employment pool represents a high level of educational attainment, with more than 40% in qualified executive positions.
How can a corporation transform its organizational culture to one appropriate for this reality?
Based upon Sophia's organizations experience, the main factors for success are (1) training managers/leaders at all levels of business and (2) placing high value on multicultural experience and competencies. In fact, this might sounds as a paradox but in this new borderless economy, culture doesn't matter less but it matters more. Indeed, global literacy involves the personal, social, business and cultural realms. It is the responsibility of all of us to learn more and to be open to others. So, what is being suggested is an attitude, approach and managerial shift is required to manage diversity. Expanding the notion of equitable behavior on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender to include global literacy is the key. Thus, the ability to manage diversity successfully occurs from understanding the different value systems and communication styles and using these differences as contributions to an organizational culture.
One of the pillars of Sophia multiculturalism is the benefits that are accrued to business because of cultural diversity. Many Sophia firms, small or large, have been able to demonstrate an economic gain that has emerged because of innovative ways that the cultural diversity of the workforce can be tapped to business competitive advantage.
Thus, at first, managing diversity offers new challenges to business, but in the long run, managing diversity offers a competitive advantage.


This type of discussions "how to create a successful culturally diverse organization" or issues dealing with the "interface of advanced high tech and human life" can be organized through seminars, workshops and round table discussions and coordinated by Frontplaces ( Frontplaces, a French company based in Sophia Antipolis, conducts seminars among business executives from Europe and abroad. The objectives of these seminars are to enhance the understanding of the fundamental dynamics of regions and businesses by addressing: what creates value and what drives competitive advantage. These workshops are based on the empirical findings of two long series of surveys, one is The Global Generation Survey (see and the other is World Values Survey which contains surveys in some 60 countries, all ages, sample based on 70% of the World Population, (see Frontplaces initiates and stimulates discussion through the presentation of socio/economic and environmental factors upon which Sophia Antipolis was built and discussed in this article. This assessment is used for both a benchmark and a framework to evaluate, understand and compare how the Sophia economy has prospered while sustaining a high quality of life. Frontplaces can also offer tailor-made seminars and excursions within Sophia and can focus on certain themes where the added value and experiences of Sophia Antipolis can be used as a benchmarking parameter for other regions and areas of interest.

Francine Lecompte Gittins


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