What the Sanofi saga tells us about the state of France's industrial strategy

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The French pharmaceuticals firm Sanofi has been in the headlines recently because of its setbacks in producing a vaccine against Covid-19, which will not now be ready until the end of 2021 at the earliest. Yet the group has nonetheless decided to go ahead with its restructuring plans and will be trimming back on its research while also moving many of its production plants into a separate company to be sold off. France is now paying the price for having abandoned its industrial and research strategies over the last thirty years. Martine Orange investigates.

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Though staff at Sanofi have tried hard to find an explanation, they still do not understand. Or rather, they understand all too well the direction taken by the giant French pharmaceutical group. After the setback in its plans for a Covid-19 vaccine – put back to the end of 2021 at best – it seemed the obvious time for management at the multinational to query the wisdom of its decisions about the future role of essential research. But there was to be no change of plan.