[File] 24 : 40 years ‘on the job’, experience gained in innovation

[File] 24 : 40 years ‘on the job’, experience gained in innovation

The French Innovation 2030 Commission, chaired by Anne Lauvergeon, identified as its first priority ‘storing energy’. Quote – “the development of renewable energies most of which are intermittent, optimised electricity production and development of portability call for innovative breakthroughs in storage systems. This is vital to the success of any energy transition policy”.
The Lauvergeon Report precedes a draft bill that will be debated, amended and normally voted in Parliament in 2014.

Target n°1: energy storage

The Report indicates that “France has its specific advantages thanks to its large corporations and SMEs in good marketing positions in this area and there is excellent public research too”. Graduates from the first UTC class, Eric Verbrugghe (GDF Suez), Gérard Lefranc (SICAE Oise), Patrick Delahaye (Areva) and Philippe Chappuis (ITER) have carried out most of their careers in the energy arena.
As they see it, the major changes will be decentralised production, free markets, growing impact of social acceptability issues and emergence of smart networks in a geopolitical context where continuously rising prices for fossil energies are the order of the day. Progress in energy storage, deployment of renewable energy procurement facilities will prove strong sectors in the future. Taken together these sources form a meta-system or system of systems, close to the concept of smart networks: the UTC Heudiasyc Lab. is working on this topical problem area, presented by Ali Charara, page xx. Energy transition can be gauged also in terms of observable climate change, due to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning.
In this light, among the 20 “future jobs” identified by the Fast Future agency in “The shape of jobs to come”, 2 relate to climate. When shall we see a training course for climate change specialists (useful when designing a nuclear power station …), or climate gendarmes, authorised to indict States who shift clouds from their normal route to secure rainwater? If we want nuclear fission to become viable and produce its first kilowatt-hours by 2050, then we shall have to train battalions of task-force engineers capable of both understanding the physics involved in nuclear fission processes and able to work in a totally international context.

Green growth and circular economics

Consumption of Earth’s limited raw materials, progressing ever since the start of the industrial era and the increase dependence of France in terms of material procurement have led to adopting policies, for example, for rare metal recovery and recycling, as identified in the second target of the Innovation 2030 Report quote -“France has its specific advantages in a favourable European context. Innovation and appropriate regulations could allow leaders to emerge in this field”.
Interactions, in its February issue, underlines the importance of eco-designing, which is a prerequisite for any efficient form of recycling, as Jérôme Favergeon, Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department (UTC-GM), notes. In the UTC Roberval Laboratory research is being focussed on innovative materials to comply with the performance/cost criteria set by industrialists, such as materials with 3D or vegetable reinforcement strengtheners which open up new horizons. In what we might call a “circular economy”, seen as probable in 2020 in the report “The shape of jobs to come”, every product will either be recycled or re-used, from packaging wrappers to complete automobiles, from textiles to electronics goods, with better attention to use and recovery of rare earths, use of which is going to grow as green economies grow.
In more general terms, underlines Patrick Delahaye (Areva Group), the recent, so-called corporate societal responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development are becoming increasing important. Future engineers will have to take these factors into account, whatever their field of activity.

The seas, a new horizon for energy procurement and access to water Recycling massively will certainly not be enough to meet our Society’s needs tomorrow. For this reason, inter alia, the Innovation 2030 report also looks at the possibilities of value adding to marine resources, starting with metal deposits on the ocean floors.
Sea-water desalination also figures among the targets, but the process would have to be made less energy-intensive. The Report says “France possesses one of the world’s largest marine exclusive zones and also has highly competent companies and research workers studying this theme”. As Daniel Thomas (president of PRES UFECAP) puts it, the “water access engineer” will be a job for the future. “Accessing drinking water is a challenge on the same scale at least as that for energy procurement”.
Eric Verbrugghe, who works at GDF Suez, reminds us that his Group is investing deeply in hydro-power generators, a marine renewable energy in its prototype phase. Energy from the seas - almost a call for interest for our engineers today!

Biomass at the heart of future resources

Assuring an access to food is rapidly going to be the 3rd target and it is a formidable. In 2050, viz. less than 40 years ahead, there will be some 9 billion inhabitants on Earth. So, how are we supposed to feed them all? The Report Innovation 2030 points to “the combined forces” of agriculture, the agro-food industrial sectors and France’s culinary traditions and suggests that research be carried out in the area of plant proteins to meet the needs of a world-scale food supply.
“Moreover, our agricultural wealth could also lead to the development of new materials”, underlines the Report. In our Interactions #20, Daniel Thomas had earlier set out that “Numerous professional openings will be made possible through biomass research. Costs must still be brought down, but one day biomass fuels will replace kerosene for aircraft engines. The long-range aim is to introduce industrial agroforestry; we shall produce GM (genetically modified) trees that will release cellulose more readily and this is the plant part that is most attractive to then produce 2nd generation bio-fuels”.
With the ‘excellence’ Institute for carbon-free Energy (IEED), the PIVERT platform and programme, which also collaborates with the competitive cluster Industry and Agro-resources and the local company Sofiprotéol, UTC is at the forefront of plant-added value research and is pre-designing tomorrow’s bio-refineries. In Fast Future, it is self-evident: there will be a need for engineers with the know-how to create seeds and GM animals, to produce increasingly improved foodstuffs, fuels as well as engineers to design and assemble alternate energy vehicles – as seen in the need to build less fuel greedy cars in China, where Peugeot (PSA) is building a platform for small-sized vehicles, as UTC graduate Christian Béhague reminds us.

Health issues: personalisation and the “silver” economy

Target ambitions #5 and #6 of the Innovation 2030 Commission relate to health issues, insisting on personalised medicine and longevity care via innovation, or what the report calls “the silver economy”. “Development of various new sciences ending in “-omics” such as genomics, proteomics, etc.,” says the Report, “increased links between medical devices and therapies as well as development of digital processing of health data are going to lead to increasing personalised treatments … our senior citizens, 15 years from now, will account for the majority of medical expenditure in France. A new economy will develop, offsetting their gradual loss of autonomy”.
In respect to ‘personalisation’, progress in bio-mechanical engineering is focusing on artificial organs and tissues, predicts Pierre-François Bernard, an expert in orthopaedic surgery. Fast Future also sees the same developments: engineers will soon be designing complete body organs, and nano-medicinal drugs will yet again push the personalisation of treatments.
Already, in the UTC-BMBI (bio-engineering) laboratory, headed by Marie-Christine Ho Ba Tho, the research scientists are developing tools and protocols to enable disfigured patients to recover their face (cf. p. xx). We shall also have to train engineers capable of handling problems related to elderly persons. UTC- graduate Thierry Leclercq (with GE Healthcare) offers his opinions: faced with economic constraints and the looming Papy Boom, intensive home care will develop and become general practice. Technology will have to be brought to the patient rather than the reverse.
“Miniaturised devices and data mobility are now available. What remains to be done is the relevant training of health workers to integrate these changes”. Thierry Leclercq sees a massive arrival and implementation of sensors to collect the personal data of the patients. “We then have to interpret the data, to forward, as needed, appropriate information to the practitioners”. This challenge the advent of big data and its utilisation, constitutes the 7th final target ambition of the Innovation 2030 Report.

Big data: the digital future

“The observed multiplication of data generated by private persons, enterprises and public authorities will bring new utilisations and new productivity gains” states the Innovation 2030 Report. The digital revolution still under way has ‘rocked’ the world over the past two decades – from punched card readers, recalls Philippe Chappuis in charge of designing one of the most sensitive components for the nuclear fusion experimental reactor, and EDF’s supercomputers that Eric Verbrugghe remembers totally occupying buildings to house them.
The big data approach will have many varied applications, from management of smart grids (pointed out by Gérard Lefranc (SICAE Oise) and even into archaeology, notes Patrick Méniel who introduced large-scale statistics into this area of work at the CNRS. Christine Roizard (University of Lorraine) places her bets on pedagogical innovation.
In a wider frame, the digital revolution may well lead on to new professional positions, such as virtual lecturers, or head of IT waste disposal … if we follow Fast Future’s visions. Johan Mathe and Mathieu Bastian, respectively employed by Google and LinkedIn are already using big data (cf. pp. xx), Johan providing Internet connections to the world via stratospheric balloons and Mathieu linking the world’s professionals all round the world on a virtual network.
Such work also brings with it the ethics debate, and UTC’s Technology and Social Science Department is looking at these issues. Philosopher Bernard Stiegler - a lecturer research scientist and a member of the French national Council for Digital Applications – sees the digital world as both poison and a remedy faced with today’s consumerist attitudes, inasmuch as it will generate a re-appropriation of knowledge.
The question remains – how do you innovate in today’s transition towards a new economy, a ‘contributive’ economy? This is the question that will be addressed by UTC and its guest speakers in the conference “Innovating Innovation” at the Sorbonne, October 29, 2013.

40 years ‘on the job’Experience gained in innovation