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How to grow up yet stay the same?

UTC-Compiegne, as a Founder Member of the Sorbonne Universities Cluster, has opened its local innovation ecosystem, its experimental territorial infrastructure, for its partners. We recall that UTC itself benefits from an experimental university status and is now spreading its academic model outside France as it has already done in France. The thrust covers two strong concepts, one of which consists of boosting technological research (with UTT-Troyes) on complex systems already under development in Shanghai. The other concept revolves round its cursus based on flexible pedagogy which enhances training and aims at closing the gap with the entrepreneurial world with long placements and workshop projects. This is now being exported to countries abroad, such as currently to Brazil.

How to grow up yet stay the same?

International development of the UTC model, all the way to Mexico

“More than ever before, education and academic mobility have become the object of intense competition among nations. France is one of the key players of this global competition and the image of our university system is excellent in Mexico, both for arts and social sciences and also for hard sciences and technology. This advantage and associate privileges is of course due to the excellence of the training courses we of HE markets and with an increasing number of players in the game, it is now necessary that our universities in France organize themselves and propose to the potential foreign students increasingly innovative training specialties, open to be able to host international exchange agreements. The objective, of course, must be to offer a clearly international dimension to the curricula, first of all to benefit their French students but also to offer open training possibilities to students of the major foreign counties, such as UTC is doing today in Shanghai ... and soon too, in Mexico”.

HE Maryse Bossière, French Ambassador to Mexico

UTC-Compiegne, an atypical institution and a model highly appreciated outside France

Training students who have the capacity to innovate is one of the prime missions of UTC where the experience and ‘excellence’ know-how in technological training benefit fully to the undergraduates with interdisciplinary teaching, for example in biotechnologies, systems of systems, in social sciences, organization, uses … But engineers tomorrow must also be able to take account of societal concerns that extend beyond purely technical and scientific aspects and knowledge. Every innovative project they undertake must integrate human and societal issues and parameters. Engineers in the 21st century will manage work in a project-oriented manner. A purely scientific and/or technological approach are not sufficient in a fast-growing all-digital era. We now find new technologies everywhere and concentrated in daily uses, whether it be in transport, in mobility, in urban engineering systems, in computer sciences and their applications, in ecology, etc. And UTC has understood this well: its pluridisciplinary approach has given it a unique and enviable reputation, notably in France but also abroad where numerous nationals participate in building and offering scientific and technical knowledge and knowhow to developing countries as they progress in a context of globalization, spreading a French touch in other countries to create international digital platforms.

This is a stance that associates Mankind and Technology, which position UTC has steadfastly ‘cultivated’ in China (University of Shanghai) where cooperative agreement has been in place for over a decade now, but also in Chile and in Mexico and at the same time the potential areas of cooperation are being reinforced with similar universities of technology in Morocco and Brazil.

Opening a new 'platform' in Mexico

Based on its excellent track-record so far, UTC is actively pursuing its international development policies by creating a new platform in Mexico. As of the coming academic year, the UTC core programme will be offered in the Franco-Mexican Lycée in Mexico. Some 40 students either French or Mexican nationals from French lycées in Mexico and other Central America will be able to apply to follow this core post-baccalaureate programme; in a manner similar and following the examples of the UTC set-ups in Shanghai and Chile, this Mexican platform will focus on three objectives - training, research and building up partnerships with the socio-economic milieus.

Mexico is "soon to become one of the world's main workshops"

Enabling students to benefit from international training opportunities allows them to “gain the capacity to adapt to heterogeneous and multicultural environments that are in line with the corporate expectations and needs of French enterprises abroad”, underscores Olivier Schoefs, Executive Director for International Affairs at UTC. So why choose the country Mexico? Several clear reasons here – Mexico is soon to become one of the world's main workshops in the fields of automobile assembly and in aeronautics”, explains Dr Shoefs. Mexico currently ranks #1 in automobile production for Latin American countries and enjoys a strong GDP growth rate (+2.5% for 2015). It also has strong commercial ties with the US via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), this opening up a gateway to the North American continent. There is also a significantly strong French presence in cutting edge technologies such as in the energy and agro-food sectors.

As Alfred Rodriguez – President of the Franco-Mexican Chamber of Commerce - sees it, the coming inauguration of this platform is a “splendid strategic opportunity for Mexico where the need for ‘generalist engineering graduates (such as trained at UTC) is enormous, for those industries that require professional with the same level of skills as their counterpart French engineers, but also beneficial for UTC itself which institutionally will thereby strengthen its presence in one of the most dynamic Latin American market-places”.

In order to respond to the high demand for engineering professionals, UITC goes even further. Its notable strong-point, over and above the excellence of its training programmes, lies in its capacity to meet the needs of French companies who have set up business abroad, training “agile” engineers capable of adapting to complex, heterogeneous environments. “Development of UTC’s overall policy thrust focuses on inter-cultural relationships, given that beyond the scientific and technological skills acquired, an engineer tomorrow must also foster and gain in cultural adaptability, not only in terms of know-how and knowledge bases, but also and especially in choices that impact his or her future professional lifestyles”, recalls Olivier Shoefs.

In Mexico, various local ecosystem actors are attracted by this newly proposed form of cooperation. Several multinational groups, such as Saint-Gobain, Safran, Thales and Alstom Thales are keen to see bicultural profiled candidates and they also appreciate finding professional working elsewhere in the world with strong « soft skills », engineers with real team and project management skills.

Faced with this challenge, new partnerships and cooperative agreements are definitely on the increase

Aware as it is of the potential for mutual interests for both entrepreneurs and the students, the French Embassy in Mexico would like to see a large French technology-intensive pole in this country. As President Storck sees it, the arrival on the scene of UTC-Compiegne constitutes “a first stone for this key French technology pole” and “is committed to a strategy that goes far beyond student exchange programmes”.

UTX will be accompanied in this venture by several solid partnerships. Olivier Shoefs recalls “the close links of UTC with NAUM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and the research centre of the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico” the largest school of engineers in the country “with whom we have been collaborating for more than 10 years now on the topic of driverless cars”, adding that “several scientists-lecturers from UTC are already in Mexico working on projects with colleagues at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico, a strategic partner for the SU cluster”.

Moreover, UTC and the research centre of the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico are studying the possibility of developing a joint master’s degree focused on electric propulsion vehicle. This particular project has enabled the partners to strengthen other research projects with SU partners.

And … there is more to come!

Soon, the students may face an almost over-rich set of opportunities! UTC-Compiegne is exploring options with other regions such as the Middle East, South-East Asia, the USA/Canada and Sub-Saharan Africa. With methodology and determination, UTC-Compiegne is pursuing its growth policy thrust in the “21st Century territories”.