Jean-Paul Chabard is the Scientific Director of EDF R&D
– In March 2016, EDF opened its main R&D center on the Paris-Saclay urban campus
That was a significant step, welcoming employees to what would become their working environment for the years to come. I think they were impressed by the architectural ambition of the project, which undoubtedly makes EDF Lab a point of reference within Paris-Saclay.
– How many employees were involved?
1,200. And their reactions quickly set my mind at rest: they arrived with a smile on their faces. On the day of the final arrivals, everyone gathered in the main atrium. The concept behind the project – to encourage interactions between teams from different sectors – there and then became a reality. That was when we knew we had made the right decision. We had clearly managed to make EDF Lab Paris-Saclay a space sufficiently open to allow collaborative projects, while offering a pleasant working environment.
– How does EDF Lab fit into the Paris-Saclay environment, with its prestigious higher education and research establishments, both those already present and those yet to come, as well as its natural, agricultural and woodland areas?
Our presence has made interaction easier between the various players at Paris-Saclay, whether academic or industrial, association members or elected representatives. Many more opportunities will arise with the imminent arrival of new higher education and research establishments (Télécom ParisTech, CentraleSupélec, ENS Paris-Saclay, etc.). As well as being a showcase for the training, research and technological innovation of the EDF Group, our site is already establishing itself as a major player at Paris-Saclay.
– And that’s before we get to your conference areas…
We do indeed host many events, and that’s one of our commitments. One of the reasons we chose Paris-Saclay was to help to increase the level of activity there. That’s only natural given our size: the number of employees and the size of the site make EDF Lab a catalyst for interaction. It’s also why we designed our events areas to meet our own requirements (most notably we hosted The Paris-Saclay Invest innovation awards ceremony in June 2017) and those of our partners, whoever they may be (research organizations, regional or local authorities, associations).
The ambition of EDF Lab is to highlight the world of innovation within the ecosystem.
– Events aside, what partnerships has EDF Lab established in the research and innovation domain?
We recently organized an exhibition on our joint laboratories (CentraleSupélec, ENS Paris Saclay, Télécom ParisTech, Ecole Polytechnique, the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), etc.) and our research-oriented partnerships. A joint EDF/CEA/ENSTA ParisTech/National center for scientific research (CNRS) unit is located close to our buildings. The Ile-de-France Photovoltaic Institute will be fully operational there from the end of 2017. There is no doubt that geographical proximity boosts research partnerships.
In terms of innovation, our site hosts our Paris-Saclay Innovation Hub. Remember that this has three aims. Firstly, to develop the entrepreneurial spirit internally, providing a greater focus on the customer and the product, and shortening the time for prototyping and release onto the market. Secondly, to adopt the principles of creative areas and agile working methods. One such area has been arranged as an open space, coordinated by two people trained in these methods. Finally, the third aim is to strengthen partnerships with start-ups.
This has recently been boosted by the Data Innovation Lab, which provides a response to the need to bring together resources and skills in digital data processing and artificial intelligence in a single location. Our data scientists can therefore work together using data made available by the various EDF R&D sectors.
– How much do these partnerships owe to the inclusion of EDF Lab in the Paris-Saclay ecosystem?
Of those I have mentioned, the idea of the Data Innovation Lab was clearly conceived at EDF Lab. The idea was submitted to our management committee in September 2016, so several months after we were actually up and running. I doubt that another EDF R&D center could have conceived this, or even hosted it. Since our office areas can easily be reconfigured, we were able to prepare a platform suited for collaborative working methods, both internally and externally. And that’s without mentioning the many potential data sciences partners based at Paris-Saclay, including SystemX, L’X, Inria and so on.