Promoting entrepreneurship and encouraging partnerships: the role of the Transfer, Innovation and Partnerships Department

Changed on 10/04/2020
Within the Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest centre, the Transfer, Innovation and Partnerships Department (TIPD) is responsible for managing relations with manufacturers and supporting company creation through a network of partners.

Collaborating with the TIPD

The team

The TIPD is made up of an assistant and four partnership and innovation project managers (PIPM), including its head Laure Aït-Ali. The department is set to take on a new PIPM, who will be tasked with developing collaborations with start-ups and SMEs in the region. As far as Laure Aït-Ali is concerned, having a range of different profiles within the department is a real advantage.

What they do

“Our role is to help ensure that the results from the research carried out by Inria project teams reach society and to boost the impact they have”, explains Laure Aït-Ali. “Our team are able to do this through their scientific expertise and business skills. In order to establish ties between research and the business world, you need to be able to speak both languages.”

The TIPD have three main priorities:

  • To promote and support entrepreneurship: stimulating and supporting the creation of innovative tech companies (start-ups) with their roots in Inria technology, in addition to raising awareness. This work is carried out alongside Inria partners (business and management schools, local incubators, etc.).
  • To build and coordinate industrial partnerships. This involves implementing the institute’s policy of bilateral agreements with major industrial partners and, in a broader sense, consolidating existing partnerships with major French groups or groups with employment bases in France.
  • To develop partnerships at a European level by helping researchers understand key themes and EU programmes and by supporting them in their search for partners and in the process of drafting proposals. Inria are keen to encourage teams when it comes to the coordination of EU projects.

These priority missions require the implementation of the resources needed in order to facilitate the technology transfer of the research teams’ results.  The TPID are also responsible for ensuring that these results are properly protected (patents, software programs, trademarks, expertise, etc.), for identifying the centre’s tech range and carrying out promotional work targeted at companies and the wider innovation ecosystem, in addition to negotiating transfer contracts and industrial partnerships.

Rooted in the region

Firmly rooted in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, the Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest centre are keen to support the deep tech development of regional start-ups and SMEs via collaborative partnerships with their research teams, the goal being to transfer expertise, knowledge and technology. Using the needs of companies and manufacturers as a starting point helps them to overcome technological obstacles. “Our work involves identifying the needs of our industrial partners and supporting them in the process of assessing these needs, before selecting the Inria project team best-placed to help them. We then work with the industrial partner and the team on the scientific and technical project that will need to be implemented in order to overcome these obstacles. Once the scope of the scientific collaboration has been established, we are then in a position to decide on the most suitable contractual framework”.

There are a number of different collaborative frameworks: long-term, multi-partner R&D projects (3-4 years), bilateral 2-3 year R&D projects (CIFRE or joint laboratory), collaborative research projects lasting from several months to a year, and expert assessments lasting just a few days.

The arrival of Émilie Pons in June is set to give a kick-start to this proactive approach to interacting with companies in the region (see interview below).


3 questions to Émilie Pons, new PIPM in charge of handling start-up and SME partnerships


In early June, Émilie Pons was appointed to the role of partnerships and innovation projects manager, tasked with developing partnerships with start-ups and SMEs while working within the TIPD. She spoke to us about her role and her targets.


To help companies based in the region to develop in the context of digital innovation 



What does your role involve?

My job is to accelerate the process of technology transfer and, in a broader sense, to help companies based in the region to develop in the context of digital innovation. This involves identifying the technology, the software and the expertise from the Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest centre that will be easiest and quickest to transfer. Basically, this means identifying the technology that is best suited to the needs of companies. My first task in the job was to compile “tech files” in order to show companies the different types of expertise or software that Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest had available. We've created a dozen or so such files since I started in the job, working alongside the communications department.

What other methods are used to accelerate technology transfer?

We have adopted a more proactive approach to events than was previously the case. Our message is now better tailored to suit the theme of an event (artificial intelligence, health, aeronautics, energy, free software, etc.), which also goes for the expertise we offer. In order to further boost our visibility, we participate in events organised by our partners (clusters [1], competitiveness clusters[2]), taking part in debates and raising the profile of the centre and the work carried out there. Our ties with French Tech, Invest in Bordeaux or the incubators TechnoWest and UniTec also help us to occupy a more responsive position within the region’s start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What is special about the partnerships offered to start-ups and SMEs?

On top of conventional partnerships (collaborative R&D partnerships, CIFRE thesis partnerships, etc.) we offer more flexible formats that are better suited to the needs of smaller companies. The contracts established between research and the business world run for at least one year, with some lasting as long as two or three. Small companies are not always able to commit to such lengthy contracts however, and sometimes need proofs of concept in advance of a deeper relationship or short-term prototyping. From there came the idea for short format contracts, lasting between two and six months, for example, which help to provide support to companies who might need it. What’s more, in the context of “standard” partnerships, we take on engineers supervised by our researchers for certain projects. Unfortunately, however, recruitment timeframes are not always compatible with the schedules of smaller companies. Another advantage of this system compared to standard collaborations is that we have at our disposal a pool of previously recruited engineers with the necessary skills and who are ready to enter into collaborative research assignments with manufacturers.

If you would like to meet with us, send an email to:

Recruiting Émilie Pons was made possible through support from the Nouvelle Aquitaine region for the Inria Tech project.


[1] e.g.: Digital AquitainePôle Magelis

[2] e.g.: AeroSpace ValleyAveniaRLH