Inria Awards 2016
The multiservice team responsible for setting up the InriaTECH Initiative in Lille : Inria's Support for Research and Innovation Award
© Inria / Photo Anteale et N. Gornas (montage)
In April 2015, the Inria Lille – Nord Europe research centre launched InriaTECH , a technology transfer platform designed to increase the exchanges with companies, many of which are local. Result of a collective dynamic, this pilot initiative is an central element of the Institut’s national policy of promoting such transfers. The multiservice team responsible for setting up InriaTECH is receiving the award for its involvement in the creation of this ‘innovation accelerator’.
Ever since its creation in 2008, the Inria Lille – Nord Europe research centre had been fully linked to the Hauts-de-France ecosystem in its development. It has made bilateral research projects with companies a key element of its strategy, focusing on productive collaborations with R&D in the private sector. Very rapidly, the centre has become one of the most innovative in this area through actions including the opening of Inria’s first showroom and the first Inria Innovation Lab, as well as the first regional ‘Inria-Industry Meeting’.
This technology transfer dynamic, which was hampered by difficulties in recruiting engineers, has led the centre to form an internal dedicated team. Little by little, InriaTECH took shape. With the help of the Hauts-de-France regional authority, the European Metropolis of Lille and the FEDER European funds, the centre launched this initiative designed to facilitate transfer research-based technologies created in different Inria project-teams to companies, especially to SME.
Optimising the skills of everyone
InriaTECH’s key feature lies in its team of engineers and project managers who can be called on to provide a rapid scientific response to corporate needs for innovative solutions. Its success is due to its network of ambassadors who agilely create bridges between the technologies developed by Inria’s project-teams and industry.
Guillaume Ollivier, head of Experimentation & Development, says that “this initiative is a great revealer of talents. Everyone concentrates on their specialisation. This leads to win-win partnershipsin which the results are consistent with the contribution of everyone involved:project managers concentrate on prospecting and liaising with the companies while the engineers mediate between research and the company, enabling the researchers to minimise the amount of their time required for efficient technology transfer. ”
A collective success
The seven departmental heads involved in the launch of InriaTECH are unanimous: the immediate success of the platform is due to the collaboration of all of the centre’s departments, and Guillaume Ollivier adds that “it represented a great leap into the unknown and a real challenge that was impossible to meet without a common will” . InriaTECH has been an outstanding project internally, as it is the only project to date to have required such complete mobilisation and coordination in the centre. Sylvain Karpf says that “this experiment has actually strengthened the multiservice team, the collective work phase was so intensive. ” In Samia Tonus’s view, head of HR service, this feat was only possible because “there was a strong team spirit between the departmental heads, meaning that the professional efforts and resources of everyone involved could be relied on at the appropriate time ”.
From the centre director to the general departments, seven departments were involved in setting up the project in a matter of months, and Samia Tonus emphasises that “without the support and backing of every member of their departments, none of the award-winners could have successfully completed their task ”:
- The Administration and Finance Department prepared the project’s financing file and facilitated discussions with the financiers;
- The HR, Experimentation & Development and Innovation Transfer & Partnerships Departments completed the recruitment, induction and training of 13 new staff in a very short time;
- The IT, Technical Services & General Services Department organised the installation of the InriaTECH teams and their equipment on the EuraTechnologies premises;
- The Communication & Mediation Department helped to disseminate information on the initiative by setting up an ad hoc communication system.
From confidence to commitment
Although the project was efficiently and skilfully managed by the departmental heads, the confidence shown in the team by David Simplot-Ryl, the centre director, and Antoine Petit, the Institut’s CEO, which encouraged its general emulation: “the confidence shown in middle management was a decisive factor in the project’s success. It was a real driver and pushed us to go further. We were all personally committed to the project ,” says Guillaume Ollivier for whom his management’s support gave the collective drive to ensure the success of the trial.
After 18 months, InriaTECH has recorded more than satisfactory results. As a matter of fact, 14 R&D contracts have been signed with different partner companies ranging from start-ups to international corporations. In 2016, the revenue from bilateral research partnerships had doubled compared with the previous year. As Sylvain Karpf says, “these initial results are highly encouraging, but we must not stop there. We must spread this initiative to other centres, as it fully serves the Institut’s technology transfer strategy… That would be an excellent next step for the initiative! ”
Lastly, this award recognises an ambitious collective success story, which has been warmly received both internally by the researchers, who feel supported in their technology transfer work, and externally by the companies, who benefit from Inria’s scientific excellence and become more competitive.
© Inria / Photo Gilles Scagnelli
Éric Horlait, Deputy CEO for Transfer and Industrial Partnership.
"The InriaTECH project found the perfect environment in Lille: an interested ecosystem, committed partners and, above all, a team with conviction and motivation. It was this enthusiasm and collective efficiency that enabled us to set this outstanding precedent. Teams in Rennes, Bordeaux and Sophia Antipolis are already reaping the benefits of the experience acquired in Lille. I’m a great believer in the power of example in innovation, where the recipe is never known in advance and where determination and a taste for risk are key. The Lille team’s professionalism ensured fast and effective implementation of this new mechanism which provides Inria with a new tool for working with the business world. Last, but certainly not least, the support and commitment of the Region also made a vital contribution to the project’s success."