Irstea in tune with its industrial partners

Rendez-Vous Carnot 2017 @ M.-L. Degaudez/Irstea
Rendez-Vous Carnot 2017 @ M.-L. Degaudez/Irstea

The 11th Rendez-Vous Carnot will be held on October 17-18. This annual convention organized by the association of Carnot Institutes aims to better meet businesses’ R&D needs. Carnot-certified since 2006, Irstea is looking forward to meeting businesses with innovative environmental projects. Elisabeth Vidal, Deputy Director of the Innovation, Promotion and Contracts Department and the person in charge of the socioeconomic partnership competitive cluster, has taken this opportunity to discuss the characteristics and advantages of the institute's partnership strategy.


Rendez-Vous Carnot is a key event, bringing Irstea’s research closer to businesses. How does it fit into the institute's strategy?

Elisabeth Vidal: At Irstea, we want to strengthen our direct partnerships with businesses regardless of their size (large groups, intermediate-sized enterprises, SME, etc.). This type of partnership is widely promoted by Carnot accreditation, particularly during Rendez-Vous Carnot, where businesses are invited to come and meet us to discuss their innovation projects. Although they complement subsidized contracts (for example, ANR calls for projects), direct contracts have several advantages. In terms of funding, they allow businesses to benefit from research tax credit while achieving funding levels that are equal to those of subsidized projects. In terms of subject areas, they are free from the constraints of calls for projects, as projects are defined by stakeholders with targets that aim to deal with both our scientific problems and the business's - often more operational - problems.

Currently, we are rolling out procedures to develop this type of partnership with water operators looking at the improvement of aquatic environment quality, regional water management and urban effluent treatment and recovery.

What are Irstea's strengths in terms of partnerships with businesses?

Elisabeth Vidal: Our main strength is, of course, our scientific expertise, which focuses on three key social challenges: sustainable and adaptive management of water and land resources, preventing and forecasting natural hazards, and environmental quality in a context of climate change. The perception study we carried out with approximately 40 businesses in 20171 revealed that Irstea is recognized for the quality of its applied research and is considered capable of dealing with its partners’ specific problems. Another benefit highlighted by the study was our position as an intermediary between targeted research and research supporting public policy. This position benefits all our partners, as they are given access to solutions that are not only operational and efficient but also compliant with the public policy and legislative contexts. One specific example is our current role as an intermediary in the implementation of actions within the Gemapi jurisdiction.

How does Irstea develop its partnerships and support businesses' innovation projects?

Elisabeth Vidal: First, we develop collaborative methods that support sustainable relationships with businesses by implementing framework agreements or joint laboratories and providing close support for creating companies through technology transfer and by hosting start-ups on our sites. We also encourage Cifre2 PhD theses that help drive long-term research projects (3 years) and provide an interesting increase in skills for companies as well as for local authorities who stand to benefit. Finally, our technological platforms are precious tools, already widely used, to carry out tests or feasibility studies and build our partners' R&D projects.

Irstea has been Carnot-accredited since 2006. What does this accreditation represent for the institute and for the businesses?

Elisabeth Vidal: The Carnot accreditation recognizes that our institute is capable of leading research projects with socioeconomic stakeholders. For them, it guarantees they are working with an organization experienced in running this type of project. For our institute, Carnot funding allows us to carry out scientific resourcing (dissertations, upstream research) and to strengthen our relationships with businesses (training researchers in partnerships, project progression towards manufacturing transfer, etc.).

As a Carnot institute, we also lead the Carnot Environment alliance, which brings together the Carnot institutes working in this field. By sharing our strengths and skills in this way, we are better equipped to deal with the needs of companies. To illustrate this, we are organizing a conference during the Rendez-Vous Carnot to present the themes of the alliance with feedback from SMEs on how the R&D partnership helped their innovation. Join us on Thursday, October 18 at 3:00pm!

Industrial partners in numbers (2017)
  • 50 companies relied on Irstea for direct contract projects.
  • 50 more companies made use of our technological platforms for testing and expertise.
  • 100 companies were involved in 66 collaborative projects funded by national or European programs.
Find out more

1- Added scientific value perceived by Irstea - Study carried out by the Erdyn consultancy based on a survey of 37 socioeconomic and public partners, 2017.
2- The CIFRE (Industrial Agreements for Training through Research) program supports any French company that employs a PhD student as part of a research collaboration with a public laboratory.