Selling 'Brand France' is making most of country's resources
WHILE it is relatively easy to make back-of-the-envelope calculations for the value of Ireland's physical assets, it is much more difficult to calculate the value of the country's intangible assets.
Only one country in the world seems determined to make the most of these assets: the French.
This is strange because the success of a modern country relies to a huge degree on its ability to innovate, create concepts and generate ideas.
It was this belief that led to the creation of France's Agence du patrimoine immateriel de l'Etat (APIE), which is attached to the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment.
The role of the APIE is to act as an internal consultant to help the public authorities in their approach to generating value from intangible assets. This translates into 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 €400m.
Other famous brands have gone down the same path, including the Paris Mint to the Documentation Francaise (the French government's official publications service).
The APIE also exploits another resource: generating value from reports, studies, software, maps, photographs, indexes and statistics of potential interest to businesses.
As part of the Digital France 2012 plan, the agency has set 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 last year.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs lets out its main room for private functions for between €50,000 and €70,000.
It is not difficult to believe places such as Dublin Castle would also make an interesting place for a reception.
Even the French diplomatic service can be pressed into action.
Making a film in the Farnese Palace in Rome, home to the French embassy in Italy, brings in around €100,000.
While the Maison de la France building in Berlin, a sort of cultural institute, 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.