Innovation specialist is new minister for higher education and research

France’s new President François Hollande has appointed Geneviève Fioraso, a specialist in the economics of research and innovation, as the new minister for higher education and research.

Fioraso (57) was Hollande’s advisor on innovation before his election on 6 May and is one of 17 women in the new 34-member government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The new minister is a socialist member of the national assembly (lower house of parliament) for Isère and assistant mayor of Grenoble.

She started her career in 1975 as a teacher of English and economics before taking up a political role three years later working for the depute (MP) and mayor of Grenoble, Hubert Dubedout.

Fioraso has also worked in various capacities in the private and public sectors.

These include as a leading member of the team that set up Corys, a high-technology start-up company of France’s atomic energy agency, the CEA; as founding director of the Agence Régionale du Numérique, established to equip small and medium businesses in the Rhône-Alpes region with digital technology; and as marketing executive at France Telecom Grenoble, in charge of emerging markets in the social and health sectors.

In 2003 she became head of Grenoble-based Minatec Entreprise, an innovation campus for developing micro- and nanotechnologies.

As a députée Fioraso has also sat on economic and scientific commissions, and last year chaired the Socialist party’s forum for higher education and research to formulate proposals for the 2012 elections.

Her tenure at the ministry is dependent on the results of the forthcoming parliamentary elections and whether the left can form a majority in the national assembly. The second, decisive round takes place on 17 June.