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President Macron Prioritizes Innovation

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Last week the Associated Press reported the Paris prosecutor’s office was opening a judicial inquiry on a French event that took place at CES 2016 – the world's largest and most important innovation event. It’s ironic that after phenomenally and successfully executing on an opportunity at CES, Macron is now being politically criticized for an alleged technical bidding violation by his staff. These investigates underscore how too often bureaucracy is the enemy of entrepreneurship.

I attended the CES 2016 reception in question, as did hundreds of global media, buyers, innovators and VIPs. The event was designed to highlight France’s thriving startup scene. The reception, and France’s overall presence at CES, impressed me as a powerful but cost-effective statement about French leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Having written two best-selling books on innovation, I believe flexibility and the ability to jump on opportunities when they present themselves are prerequisites for successful entrepreneurs and leaders.

The prosecutor’s case hinges on a technical detail in a government acquisition rule requiring bids for any purchase, including a last-minute reception. This rule is absurd – and harmful. Should a nation's leaders, who must make last-minute scheduling changes to host and attend events globally, be so constrained by bureaucracy that they forgo major opportunities?

As Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, Macron attended CES 2015 and 2016 in Las Vegas, adding huge visibility to the growing French presence at CES.  The number of French exhibitors at CES grew 250 percent between 2014 and 2017, while the number of French attendees nearly tripled.

Macron's leadership in heading the French delegation at CES and twice attending CES Unveiled Paris underscores his commitment to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship and his belief in the power of technology to change lives for the better and deliver economic benefits. Indeed, France sent more companies to our 2016 Eureka Park exhibit – the home for startups at CES – than any other country except the United States.

We are honored and pleased that President Macron has attended four CES events, meeting with exhibitors, inspiring media stories about French entrepreneurship and innovation and demonstrating a keen understanding of the basic principles for innovation. Indeed, his 2015 visit to CES resulted in a front page Wall Street Journal story on France’s innovative business reputation.

Macron may be the world leader who best understands the value of entrepreneurship, innovation, the certainty and importance of disruption and the government role in encouraging innovation, both legally and symbolically.

Every government has a bureaucracy, but every prosecutor has discretion. Although news reports indicate that President Macron is not implicated in this probe, the headlines suggest otherwise. Macron's overwhelming and unprecedented electoral success indicates strong French voter support for his vision and his commitment to innovation.

President Macron represents the politics of hope over fear. He supports new business models and investment in technology – policies on which the French and global technology industries can thrive. I hope his great work at CES will not be tarnished by an overly-zealous and leaky investigator.