PARIS --For French President Emmanuel Macron, it was a light-bulb moment.
In an ornate ballroom at the Palace of Versailles last July, the head of Taiwan's ProLogium took out a pair of scissors and cut one of its solid-state batteries the size of a credit card in half. The small bulb it was powering continued to shine.
Macron was amazed by the demonstration of the safety and durability of the next-generation technology many automakers hope will soon power electric vehicles, according to two people at the meeting.
"We will make your life easier and help you set up shop here," he told ProLogium's CEO Vincent Yang.
Ten months later, Macron and Yang stood side-by-side in Dunkirk to announce that ProLogium had picked the northern French port ahead of sites in Germany and the Netherlands for its first EV battery gigafactory outside Taiwan.
It is one of four such gigafactories Macron hopes will transform the poor, former coal mining area near Belgium into a hub for the EV battery industry, creating jobs and helping to put France at the forefront of Europe's energy transition.
It did not happen by chance.
Interviews with 10 government officials and executives involved in the investment decisions show that France rolled out the red carpet, offering battery makers generous subsidies thanks to a relaxation of EU state aid rules for green energy projects - along with some personal lobbying by Macron.
The people said changes since Macron became president in 2017, such as cuts in corporate tax, measures to make hiring and firing easier, and reductions in a production tax based on the size of factories, also played a role in the decisions.
Besides ProLogium, China's Envision AESC, local startup Verkor and the ACC consortium including Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis are setting up gigafactories in the same area - and officials said France is courting Chinese EV giant BYD and Tesla to build car plants too.
"Results do not just fall from the sky," Macron told Reuters in Dunkirk. "It's in line with what we have been doing for six years. France is adapting to the world."