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43 : UTC’s PhDs: our key players for innovation

Dans un monde où l’innovation – en particulier technologique – occupe une place croissante, les compétences des docteurs spécialistes des sciences de l’ingénieur et notamment des docteurs ingénieurs apparaissent de plus en plus stratégiques. L’UTC entend préparer ses étudiants à cette nouvelle donne.

43 : UTC’s PhDs: our key players for innovation

PhDs possess a primary asset: the capacity to dare propose breakthrough solutions

Sector Group is a consultancy company that specializes in the field of risk identification management. It is an SME with 120 staff that employs 4 PhDs and is also recruiting a PhD students in the framework of a CIFRE contract (industrial agreement to train via research) with the UTC Heudiasyc laboratory. Their Chairman, Jean-François Barbet, spoke with our reporters.

Why are the specific skills of PhDs of interest to you at Sector Group?

I myself am not a PhD. I was initially trained as an engineer and as a research scientist: I began my professional career at the R&D Division of EDF (French electricity utility), to study various probabilistic ways to measure security factor in the domain of nuclear power production. That early career experience and my professional follow-on convinced me that if we want to develop activities that integrate innovative products and process, then the appropriate path is via research. And, given that PhD graduates are trained in research protocols, the PhDs possess a primary asset:
the capacity to dare propose breakthrough solutions and to explore paths that are not yet covered in teaching courses or in industrial reference texts; in contrast, young graduate engineers has not been prepared to adopt this sort of attitude.

 To what extent is this important for your company’s activities?

Our work is spread over a wide range of activities: energy, railroad, automobile, aeronautics … one half of our projects relate to existing installations (for example, reinforced measures for nuclear power stations, integrating return on experience (ROE) and the other half on new subjects such as increased autonomy in road vehicles. In our fields it is important that we deploy considerable efforts on R&D to better meet our customers’ needs and expectations today and to ensure our own future: we must learn all the time what the market-place is saying, today and tomorrow. Remember that the culture of research is doubt and this is primordial when you work in the field of risk identification and management.

 What will be the area of work assigned to your CIFRE PhD student?

The answer here is predictive maintenance maths models, aids to decision to enable fine analyses when we are required to intervene in an operational system, therefore necessarily taking real conditions in to account. We are constantly working on research projects in partnerships signed with the universities: recruiting a PhD student is another way to build strong links with the academic world to enhance our R&D. But our objective must also be to recruit the graduate after his/her thesis years. This is all the more important that SMEs find it difficult to attract high level scientists, who indeed often prefer to join a major company structure. 

* A CIFRE contract allows a company to receive a State subsidy to recruit a PhD student where the research work will be overseen by experts with a public laboratory.