The Côte d'Azur's aeronautics and space industry is a dynamic network of sub-contractors and specialist companies, working closely with major research laboratories and specialist training institutes, all structured around world-class clients.  R&D projects involve no less than five competitiveness clusters. Accommodating the headquarters of Thales Alenia Space, the European leader in satellite systems, Cannes boasts an industrial site unique in Europe dedicated to the integration and testing of satellites. As an integral part of the exceptional regional and national expertise, the Côte d'Azur's aeronautics and space industry benefits from a total ecosystem, interconnected with the information and communication technology and microelectronics sectors in Sophia Antipolis.

Thales Alenia Space

Thales Alenia Space: European leader in satellite systems

The Côte d'Azur's foremost manufacturer with over 2,000 employees, Thales Alenia Space is at the cutting edge of the aeronautics and space sector on the French Riviera. The company has developed a dual expertise at its Cannes-based site where it is the prime contractor for satellite platforms and high-resolution optics with the European Centre for space optics. Since 2010 this key European manufacturer of satellite systems has invested over €40 M in redeploying and optimising the facilities at its Cannes headquarters. Its satellite integration and testing resources (over 13,500 m2 of class 100,000 cleanrooms) make this a site which is unique in Europe. While satellite telecoms account for half of its business, the company has also been the prime contractor for European meteorological satellites for over 30 years (the third-generation Meteosat programme is currently in progress).

Innovative companies

A network of specialist, hi-tech SMEs

Boosted by Thales, backed by the telecoms and microelectronics expertise in Sophia Antipolis and managed and coordinated by the Pégase Competitiveness Cluster, the Côte d'Azur's aeronautics and space sector features gems such as:

  • Orolia, a global specialist in atomic clocks that is set to fit its high-precision clocks to eight of the satellites in the Galileo satellite navigation system.
  • Nexess, which develops automated RFID solutions for the real-time monitoring of flows of people, objects and processes for aeronautics companies.
  • Astrium, from the EADS group, which processes satellite and aerial images in Sophia Antipolis.
  • Rakon, also based in Sophia, is a European and global leader in the field of generating frequencies with ultra-high spectral purity and signal processing solutions designed for the space and defence industries.

There are many others in addition to these, including Acri, Akka, Altran, Ausy, Benomad, Cobra Automotive Technologies, Dassault Systems, EADS, Elg, EPCOS, Geoimage, Geosat, GFI, Grooviz, Ixwaves, Infoterra, Kuantic, NGC Aerospace, One Too, Orolia, RASI, ,ScaiTech, SeaSatCom, Simplysim, Sita Equant, Sopra Group, Soditech, SpaceEyes, Studiel Ingemeca, Systems' ViP, Temex, Thales Alenia Space, Thales Underwater Systems, Visteon, etc.


Research centres, competitiveness clusters and business incubators working towards excellence

The Côte d'Azur provides an exceptional environment for developing convergences and innovation between mobile tools and location-based services.

  • Sophia Antipolis, Europe's leading technology park offers the right conditions for R&D activities, benefiting from a powerful ecosystem in the fields of telecoms, microelectronics and software/mobile web developments.
  • Naturally positioned between sea, mountains and urban landscapes, this is an ideal region for pilot programmes, large-scale experiments and developing activities related to positioning, navigation and timing.
  • Dubbed "the French wireless region", the Côte d'Azur has pioneered the use of mobile technologies, such as NFC in Nice.

The convergence of mobile and location-based services using embedded systems is applied to industries as diverse as risk management, automotive navigation, yachting and marketing. Thales Alenia Space and the sector's Côte d'Azur-based SMEs are part of a wider powerful aeronautics and space industry in the South of France and the PACA region in particular, driven by the Pégase Cluster.

The aeronautics and space industry in PACA

Economic impact:

  • Primary industrial sector in PACA
  • 5.5 billion euros turnover


  • 8 world-class clients
  • 300 specialist companies
  • 40,000 jobs

Infrastructures & research:

  • 8 test centres of excellence
  • 13 specialist labs
  • 1,700 researchers, including 700 in public research
  • 30% of regional R&D


  • 13 engineering schools
  • 16 university institutes of technology

The Pégase Competitiveness Cluster

Pégase is a French aeronautics competitiveness cluster accredited in 2007.  It aims to unify the aeronautics sector in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur around the construction of particularly innovative "flying machines".

  • Over 300 organisations including higher education establishments and 190 companies representing 18,000 jobs, mostly VSEs/SMEs but also about ten of the industry's major buyers (including Eurocopter, Thales Alenia Space, Dassault, Areva).
  • 158 accredited projects, including 74 projects financed for a budget of €210 M and benefiting from a total subsidy of €102 M.

These companies' expertise is fuelled and consolidated by the region's strengths in related disciplines ranging from microelectronics to risk management, including Earth and ocean observation and imaging as well as specialities arising from R&D projects within the competitiveness clusters (Secured Communicating Solutions, Risks, Mer PACA, Pégase, Optitec and Capenergies), working in partnership with research centres such as INRIA Mediterranée and GéoAzur, a geosciences research laboratory based on the CNRS Campus in Sophia Antipolis.  Sophia Antipolis is also home to the ETSI regulatory authority (European Telecommunication Standards Institute) and the W3C. A business incubator dedicated to space activities, the ESA BIC (European Space Agency Business Incubation Center) in France was opened in 2012.  In partnership with the Pégase Cluster, Sophia Antipolis is one of the incubator's centres. The ESA BIC Sophia Antipolis is managed by the Paca Est Incubator which already coordinates the Galileo Masters. This European competition, for which Sophia Antipolis is one of the French selection centres, focuses on the most innovative projects in the field of satellite applications related to intelligent transportation, security and mobile phones. Telecommunications, satellite navigation, meteorology, environmental management, Earth and ocean observation, defence and security are just some of the sectors covered by a space industry at the forefront of the major strategic challenges facing the planet.

10 reasons to choose the Côte d'Azur

  • Ideally positioned to benefit from the powerful aeronautics and space industry in the South of France, the proximity of a European leader in satellite systems and the cutting-edge expertise in Sophia Antipolis.
  • One of the foremost regions for R&D in France, a benchmark for high value added companies working internationally.
  • Interconnected expertise focused on telecoms, microelectronics, security and life sciences, space and the oceans.
  • The perfect environment between city, sea and mountains for pilot applications, large-scale experiments and developing activities related to positioning, navigation and timing.
  • An international and ultra-connected city nicknamed "the French wireless region", a unique environment for exploring the convergences between mobile tools and location-based services.
  • Privileged access to Galileo (European Satellite Navigation Competition).
  • Local competitiveness clusters that promote innovation and optimise cooperation on research projects in the aerospace industry.
  • Priority financing for your R&D with direct access to the research and development tax credit, the best innovation financing in Europe. 
  • An ever-growing talent pool  boasting qualified, innovative and multilingual human resources produced or attracted by the Côte d'Azur.
  • Attractive business sites at competitive prices offering substantial expertise through the competitiveness clusters and professional networks.