Shared laboratories

Promoting upstream research with industry

Laboratoires Communs Chercheurs © INRIA / Photo C. Dupont

Inria places great importance in the transferring of its research to benefit industry. This process has a major impact on the economy and also, in general terms, society. In order to promote research upstream with industry, the institute has created a system of shared laboratories with long-standing partners. These laboratories have been created with a view to removing technological barriers on major, well-defined subjects. Each partner dedicates significant human resources. 

A shared virtual laboratory was thus created with Alcatel-Lucent in order to conceptualise the communication networks of the future. With Microsoft  Research, meanwhile, a joint research centre was inaugurated in January 2007 in order to develop reliable software programmes and favour the use of I.T. in all scientific fields. In both cases, the creation of these shared laboratories enables  research to be conducted upstream, in the long term, on subjects presenting significant potential.

Inria - Microsoft Research: exceptional competition

What could be more eloquent in terms of an evaluation of the scientific activity of the Inria-Microsoft Research joint research centre than to present its results since its creation in 2006? A varied list that speaks volumes as to the excellence of the works carried out and the influence of the centre on an international scale: three doctoral theses, nine more underway, 18 articles published in international scientific reviews, 44 publications in reputed international conferences, two presentations to the Academy of Sciences, seven software programmes developed, 34 new researchers of nine different nationalities having participated in the works, including 18 PhD students and 16 post-doctoral researchers.

The result of a long-dating complicity

Since the first exchanges in 1995, Inria has forged close ties with Microsoft Research, the research department of the I.T. giant. Several renowned Inria researchers have even joined the Cambridge laboratory in Great Britain. Gilles Kahn, a member of the scientific council, has long supported the creation of a centre on the same scale in France, and this saw the light of day in January 2007 at Orsay. “Currently 25 French researchers work there, from Inria, the CNRS, the Ecole Normale supérieure and Paris-Sud university, as well as 14 researchers from Microsoft Research, all globally recognised within their fields”, says Jean-Jacques Lévy, Director of Research at Inria, who heads the joint research centre.

Computer science to the aid of other sciences

Two research fields are jointly studied: firstly, the security and reliability of the software, and secondly, the interactions between computer science and other sciences. The first theme concerns techniques to make the software ever more reliable and secure. This is imperative given their omnipresence in everyday life. The second theme consists in helping scientists across all disciplines to use computers to speed up their research within fields as diverse as health and sustainable development. The shared laboratory has seven projects currently underway, three of which date back to its creation and have already proven highly fruitful.

This is a prime example of the new and successful partnership between our company and the academic community. Steve Balmer, Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft

More than just a success: the foundation of innovative research

Combined with a flexible administration system, this environment has been conducive to the conducting of major research within the field of formal methods (to demonstrate theorems), automatic proof for programmes and the security of data exchange protocols on the internet”, clarifies Jean-Jacques Levy. “Very satisfactory theoretical results have been obtained, and in accordance with the commitments made at the outset, the software programs developed are available for free on our website.” The next warhorse: software environments for multi-core infrastructures.

 “The results are already impressive”, adds Michel Cosnard, Chairman and CEO at Inria. “However, the most important element is the quality of relations between the researchers and the two entities. This opens up new horizons for the programming and industrialisation of the software.” After three years of fruitful collaboration, an agreement to continue for a further four years was signed in October 2009.

Inria-Alcatel-Lucent: A collaboration centered on the networks of the future

After ten years of fruitful collaboration, Inria created a shared virtual laboratory with Alcatel-Lucent in July 2008. What is a virtual laboratory? An organisation that enables teams of researchers to join together to work on a specifically-defined subject. It is a way of prioritising human relations, which will benefit the R&D objectives in the long term. Around 55 researchers are involved in this project, including 18 new researchers, recruited especially. Certain subjects have already resulted in top-level publications.

Facing the explosive growth in nomadic objects

The ambition of this laboratory is to conceptualise the communication networks of the future. These networks intend to help manage the explosive growth in the numbers of users and nomadic objects connected (telephones, computers, etc.), as well as the multiplying numbers of applications, whilst at the same time ensuring the best quality of service. The scientific and economic challenges are considerable.

The watchword is self-organisation: these networks will need to be autonomous and intelligent. The communication components and protocols being developed will enable the management of wire and wireless networks to be optimised, as well as their coverage, their capacity and their service quality to be extended without any intervention from the operator.

The changing face of a collaboration

The laboratory is co-led by a world-class scientist and an engineer at the very heart of industrial issues. The topics are decided on together and the research efforts divided up between the two partners. “This shared laboratory strengthens our collaboration and changes the face of it,” affirms Albert Benveniste, the laboratory’s scientific director. So it was that in 2009, shared workshops uniting Alcatel-Lucent, its research units, the Bell Labs and Inria were organised in the United States on the science of networks.

Relations are tighter knit than they are within the framework of a standard contract

This dynamic was also reflected in the success of the EIT ICT Labs project supported by 23 partners, including Alcatel-Lucent and Inria. The aim of this large-scale European project initiated in late 2009 is to unify research, and also training and innovation, in order to build the information society of tomorrow. In other words, the creation of new services and new technologies, responding to new uses, and calling on information sciences and technologies.

Green networks: the challenge of the future

The creation by Bell Labs of the Green Touch consortium in January 2010, of which Inria is a founding member, should, moreover, lead to the initiation of projects relating to future energy-efficient green networks. Objective of the consortium: to divide the energy consumption of communication networks by 1000 in five years.

Green Touch

Green Touch brings together academic partners (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University Wireless System Labs, CEA-LETI, Inria, etc.) and industrial partners (Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent, AT &T, China Mobile, Samsung, Telefonica, etc.) and is open to other players wishing to participate.

Keywords: Industry Microsoft research Alcatel Lucent Transfer Interoperability Communication network Microsoft Research Self-organised network Optimization Software Programming Reliability security Formal method Partnership EIT ICT Labs Joint laboratory Green Touch Bell Labs

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