France’s President Francois Hollande has called for an ‘Airbus’ style model of collaboration for the European solar industry.

On Tuesday, Hollande said collaboration with Germany in the energy sector would be a “beautiful alliance”.

“Germany has a head-start in renewables, but we have our vanguard in energy storage and power grids,” he said.

“We have to work together to expand new industrial branches. We are very proud of Airbus, now we want joint action for the energy transition.”

It was unclear specifically what form of collaboration the president was referring to, however his overtures are in line with the goals of the ambitious HERCULES research project.

The project’s name is derived from High Efficiency Rear Contact solar cells and Ultra powerful moduLES.

The research collaboration between universities, research bodies and private sector firms including EDF and Meyer Burger, aims to drive cell efficiencies to 25% and module power conversion over the 21% mark while keeping the cost at around €0.7 per Watt (£0.58 per Watt).

The stated goal of HERCULES, which received a €7 million (£5.8 million) grant form the European Commission, reaches beyond the lab and is in line with Hollande’s nod to new industrial cooperation.

“In effect, there is an R&D club for PV in Europe that has evolved in mainland Europe and is strongly influenced by a few research labs,” Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz said.

“While the UK has hit the global PV stage in the past few years, it is exclusively on the downstream side, with the UK having made little impact from a technology innovation standpoint in the past few years,” said Colville.

“Furthermore, the UK government has nothing to recoup in terms of historic investments in PV manufacturing: something that is very different in Germany and France,” he added.

HERCULES was launched in November 2013 and is funded until the end of 2016.

Fraunhofer ISE chief Eicke Weber told the French newspaper Les Echos that Europe could either leave the PV manufacturing market to Asia or governments could help provide the same guarantees that helped create Airbus.

Increasing state support in Europe to a continental scale could be considered hypocritical given the EU’s response to China’s support of its own manufacturing sector.

“Ultimately, this type of project would need several billion Euro’s, with much of this falling at the taxpayer’s expense,” said Colville,

“It certainly forms an interesting anecdote at a time when the European Commission has just been asked to investigate government backed support of the Chinese PV manufacturing base as part of the anti-dumping investigations in Europe,” he said.