Generating value from France’s intangible assets

The French State owns an incredibly diverse range of intangible assets, including its image, trademarks, prestigious locations, know-how, databases and many more. This was the motivation for the creation of the Agence du patrimoine immatériel de l’Etat, the only organisation in the world focused exclusively on generating value from a country’s intangible assets. Its activities are based on three strategic objectives : optimising the impact of managing intangible assets on the economy ; using the increased value generated by these assets to modernise public services ; and protecting the State and users from any risk of misappropriation.


In the past, the economic success of a country relied primarily on its physical capital. Now, it is the ability to innovate, create concepts and generate ideas that is the determining factor. A country’s assets are not only of tangible but also of intangible value. This was the reason behind the creation of France’s Agence du patrimoine immatériel de l’Etat (APIE), attached to the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment. The role of the APIE is not, however, to manage particular activities. It acts as an internal consultant to help the public authorities in their approach to generating value from intangible assets. From the outset, the APIE has been involved in three potentially profitable areas of activity.

The first is based on promoting public-sector know-how and the trademarks that protect it. The Louvre museum, for example, was able to negotiate with the United Arabs Emirates authorities the use of its name in Abu Dhabi over the next 30 years, for 400 million euros. Other famous brands have gone down the same path : from the Paris Mint to the Documentation française (the French government’s official publications service), the Guimet Museum of Asian Arts to the Official Gazette, and the Chateau de Chambord to the University of Paris IV… The APIE’s expertise has also proved profitable for the Telecommunications Institute in the Middle East and the Saint-Cyr School in Qatar (where the emphasis has been not only on generating value from its history and name, but also its traditions, its uniform and more). The Agency has also helped the National Institute for Quality and Origin to set up a training scheme aimed at mass-market retailers.

The APIE also exploits another resource : generating value from numerous reports, studies, software, maps, photographs, indexes and statistics of potential interest to economic agents. As part of the Digital France 2012 plan, the Agency has been tasked with setting up a single portal providing access to the full range of public information. Whilst access to the data is free, there may be a charge for reusing it for commercial purposes. The Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment decided, for example, to charge for access to a database showing the price of petrol at every service station throughout the country. One company then had the idea of using this information to offer motorists a downloadable application that would show them the price of a litre of petrol on their mobile phone.

The third way of making the most of France’s intangible assets is to open up national buildings and monuments as film locations or for hosting events. Filming in the Courts of Justice, for example, brought in 200,000 euros last year. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs lets out its main room for private functions for between 50,000 and 70,000 euros. Making a film in the Farnese Palace in Rome, home to the French embassy in Italy, should bring in around 100,000 euros. Another example is the Maison de la France building in Berlin, which was able to be restored as a result of selling advertising space on the scaffolding ; the income from this scheme was estimated at 700,000 euros. These innovative financing methods can be used not just to carry out renovation work, but also to modernise and improve public services.

An initial review was published recently : 69 projects have been carried out since 2007, with 30 launched in 2009. “It’s a completely original approach that’s unique in the world. The achievements made in 30 months show that there are plenty of further resources to consider that are open to similar action,” emphasises the Director General of the APIE, Claude Rubinowicz. Presenting his annual report, Mr Rubinowicz also pointed out that “intangible assets have increased by 12.5 billion thanks to the value generated by certain radio frequencies (4 billion) and greenhouse gas emission quotas under the Kyoto Protocol (8.5 billion)”.

The APIE, which is committed to pursuing its activities over the long term, is also approached by the representatives of foreign countries on a regular basis. Belgium and the United Kingdom, amongst others, have shown an interest in the scheme.

For more information, please refer to :

Agence du patrimoine immatériel de l’Etat

Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment

Dernière modification : 18/08/2010

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