It is a crucial vote for the innovation policy in Friborg which was played this Friday at the Grand Council. The deputies agreed by 71 votes to 24 (2 abstentions) to inject 25 million francs into the recapitalization of the company Bluefactory Friborg-Freiburg (BFF), of which the canton is a shareholder in equal shares with the city of Friborg (the latter). ci will decide on its participation on February 22). These 50 million should allow the project to really take off after several delays. The funds will be used for the realization of various constructions and will allow the laboratory of the Smart Living Lab of EPFL, present since 2015, to have its own building.
This recapitalization is a necessity in the eyes of State Councilor Olivier Curty, in charge of the Economy, who pleaded for “a vote to match the ambitions of the canton”. “Bluefactory is sold out. Faced with increasing rental requests, we are forced to redirect companies to other sites, ”he regretted. In addition, for the Christian Democrat magistrate, the money invested in future buildings will serve as a “second recovery plan” in the midst of a pandemic, providing work for regional construction players.
Former Cardinal brewery
If the vote was clearer than expected, many deputies have however expressed their reservations. It must be said that Bluefactory has become one of the most divisive issues in Friborg politics. Founded on February 12, 2014, the mission of BFF is to develop and manage the innovation district born on the site of the former Cardinal brewery. Today, the place hosts 55 companies and associations, for 340 jobs. A result which remains below the initial expectations aroused by this strategic industrial wasteland of 53,000 m², in the heart of the city, close to the station.
The debates above all reflected the tensions inherent in the project, the user charter obliging Bluefactory to integrate this technological park into the urban fabric, notably by including socio-cultural activities. On the left, the socialist Elias Moussa thus called on BFF to “not let themselves be locked into a role of classic real estate management”, but to create “a district bubbling with life, innovative and open to the population”, like the Zurich’s Hürlimann district. For his part, the PLR Romain Collaud stressed that it was essential that the engine of Bluefactory remains economic development: “Organize concerts or exhibitions, why not, but priority must be given to start-ups.”
In the end, perhaps still marked by the recent announcement of the cessation of activities of the Swiss Integrative Center for Human Health (SICHH) – located precisely at Bluefactory -, the deputies largely supported the recapitalization. Only the SVP fiercely opposed it. Its group leader, Nicolas Kolly, denounced “a project doomed to failure” and “a risky real estate promotion”, accusing the deputies of other parties of “having resigned themselves to this project becoming the financial abyss of the canton. “.
“A good signal”
Contacted at the end of the assembly, Jacques Boschung, chairman of the board of directors of BFF, does not hide his satisfaction, in particular in front of the clear vote of the deputies: “It is a good signal which allows us to go moving forward with new builds that are ready to go. ” Despite criticism from some deputies, the Fribourgeois defends the idea of a sustainable innovation district that integrates new urban components as well as technological ones. He concludes that “this balance is the strength of the project. A site that can combine culture and economy in the heart of a city has no equivalent in Switzerland. ”