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Inria Lille at the crossroads between Europe, research and innovation

(CC-BY-2) Giuseppe Milo

Since its inception Inria Lille - Nord Europe center is part of an international and european dynamic which aims at contributing to the scientific excellence of research and innovation europeans programs. Scientific collaborations within the European Research area create a unique knowledge market of research and innovation.

Inria, an institute promoting scientific excellence for technology transfer and society, is fully in line with Europe's ambitious continent-wide plan for the coming decades. Even before the new European initiative was underway, the Inria Lille - North Europe research centre was conducting projects with research teams from a variety of countries and forging alliances with Dutch and Belgian partners.

Nevertheless, the European project represents an important strategic opportunity for Inria, in response to which the Institute has appointed Europe correspondents within its research centres. For Inria Lille, Valérie Sultana (on administrative aspects) and Lionel Seinturier (on scientific aspects) have been tasked with informing and assisting researchers with regard to new measures aimed at facilitating scientific project development and funding requests. "My job is to keep our scientific teams informed of the various opportunities that Europe is offering, ” explains Lionel Seinturier, leader of the Spirals project team (a joint project with Université Lille 1).

To promote European synergy in research, Inria Lille - North Europe first identifies teams that could benefit from the new programmes in order to help them with the paperwork and procedures. “The multitude of European opportunities can be a bit disorienting for researchers. I am also the link between Inria's European and International Partnerships Division and the Inria Lille research centre ,” adds Lionel Seinturier.

Tailored European programmes

The ERC grant is awarded to an individual researcher who receives substantial funding for a five-year period. “Getting an ERC grant, as our own Antoine Gloria (Mephysto team) has done, is a true mark of excellence. ” When it comes to collaborative European projects, preparing a convincing statement on the complementarity and quality of the partnership is essential, in order to get LEIT (Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies) funding, for example. “The competition is fierce, with an acceptance rate of between 17 and 3%. So it takes enormous preparation to be able to convince the European Commission experts of the project's relevance, innovativeness and technology transfer potential, ” points out Lionel Seinturier.

Europe stepping up its investment

In 2014, Europe started its H2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, a funding initiative aimed at boosting collaborative projects. The new funding opportunities built into this programme could provide valuable support for researchers at Inria Lille. A few years ago, the Shacra project team worked on developing a dynamic computer model of human liver function as part of the European PASSPORT project (2008 to 2011). The project led to the creation of a start-up, InSimmo, which now develops a new generation of medical simulators used during complex surgical operations.

A new philosophy to research

Research is not confined by borders, which is why it can continue riding a wave of excellence impelled by scientists from multiple European countries. “We are more invested than ever in the European Research Area. Given the number of French researchers and how quickly new technologies develop, working on a national scale is no longer enough to maintain a high level of excellence. For research to be known and circulate and have an impact, it is important to have a presence in the European arena, ” advises Lionel Seinturier.

To meet this challenge, the Inria Lille – North Europe centre set up an "associated Northern European teams" programme in 2013, to encourage joint projects between the centre's researchers and institutions in Northern Europe. The programme has already supported joint projects between Inria Lille researchers and scientists at major European universities such as Oxford, University College London, King’s College London, University of Oslo, Delft University of Technology, Université de Liège, and CWI Amsterdam. European cooperative initiatives set up more than a decade ago and the rise in collaborative European projects are major assets for Inria Lille, helping the Institute increase its scientific influence in the field of digital science.

Keywords: Europe Europeans Contracts INRIA Lille - Nord Europe