From its location in the Alps, between 3 mountain chains, results its industrial historic background: hydraulic power, heavy energetic consumer industries, such as cement plants, metallurgy, electric industries, later transformed into electronics with high-level public research infrastructure investments between the 60’ and today, e.g. CNRS, CEA, ILL, EMBL, ESRF (home to the European synchroton, the world's most intense X-ray source) or the more recent innovation campus on micro and nanotechnologies Minatec. All of this makes the metropolis the 5th most innovative place in the world, according to Forbes magazine, and second to the European I-capital award in 2014.
Grenoble is truly a knowledge city due to the high concentration of world-class research and technology centres. Recently 6 universities (Stendhal University, Joseph Fourier, Pierre Mendés-France, Université de Savoie, and Grenoble Institute of Technology) have merged gathering 61,000 students, 15% from abroad. Public economy is very significant in Grenoble (public research investment, universities, university hospital, administration...), albeit productive economy is equally strong, with key sectors such as mechatronics (STMicroelectronics, Caterpillar), IT (Cap Gemini), energy (Schneider, EDF, Alstom/GE, AirLiquide), health and biotech (BD, Roche, BioMérieux) or chemistry (Vencorex, Arkema). 40% of all the industrial jobs are due to inward investments.
R&D is powerful in Grenoble, and the city ranks in the 2nd position in France in researchers and engineers in the total active population, only after Paris. Though the polarization of labour market is growing while the local industry, in terms of GDP, is suffering the global competition, especially since 2008. The city is a magnet for students and researchers. Rather than a metropolitan city, Grenoble is a “technopolitan city”. Grenoble has a track record on issues closely connected to the smart specialization concept. The local innovation ecosystem is robust and based on the cooperation between enterprises, R&D centres and laboratories, University of Grenoble and local authorities. It includes facilities and schemes such as tech parks (Inovallée), innovation campuses (Minatec, GIANT), start up financing schemes (Forum5i), scientific and technical culture (CCSTI), social economy incubators (ARTIS, Pousada), etc. Grenoble is also considered a model for the French national policy on Competitive Clusters. Several Grenoble-based high-tech clusters, like Minalogic, Tenerrdis or Axelera are among the most dynamics in France.