The art of innovating technically and humanly

Eric Bonnet-Maes, at 50 years is Deputy Director General, LexisNexis, France, a legal and economic information media group with 650 personnel. With his UTC engineering degree in Bio-engineering, this hardened captain of industry also followed successfully a Master’s degree in Marketing & Management at ESSEC. Here is his impressive track record.

The art of innovating technically and humanly

Inspired by what he saw as the potential of bionics and biomechanical engineering, Eric Bonnet-Maes chose UTC as his university in 1986, matriculating in bio-engineering and the biomedical elective specialty which at that time was a very novel course offering.

UTC already enjoys a high repute in the Bonnet-Maes family … his Father, engineer and entrepreneur appreciates the work he does regularly with the graduates and faculty of UTC. His Mother also has a degree, in commerce so Eric could also have chosen that track; but he preferred to go through the two year “preparatory” classes aka ‘Math. sup., Math. spé.’, at the Saint Louis Lycée after completing his science baccalaureate.

A scientific mind with an entrepreneurial touch

“I took on some very special subjects such as recording the biological signals from monkeys turned epileptic but what I found most impressive was the UTC in-house student-company”, recalls Eric Bonnet-Maes when he talks about the years he spent in Compiegne. Je joined this USEC (Université Services Etudes Conseils), which “hires out” students to external enterprises on request. By the end of his studies at UTC, Eric Bonnet-Maes had become President of the Junior Company. He committed himself to developing a software package for the R&D Centre of the then French coal-mining consortium - Charbonnages de France. His end of studies internship provided another opportunity to explore different new professional horizons. He chose the medical instrument division at Hewlett-Packard, which sells cardio-echographic units, ECGs, holster and other monitoring equipment for professional health agents. He held a sales position with HP. It was his client relationship at HP that Eric Bonnet Maes found decisive: “I understood that technology alone was not enough to satisfy me”. The following year he registered at ESSEC to do a Master’s degree in Marketing & Management and became Vice-President of the French National Junior Enterprises Confederation.

From computers to a service offer

For his first post-graduation position, Eric Bonnet-Maes joined HP again. This period lasting over a decade allowed him to try his hand in various positions, starting as a sales manager when he joined. He rapidly rose the management ladder to become Sales and Marketing General Manager (Health Division), Director e-services, Director Home Sales via Internet, Hewlett Packard in 2000. In his quest for new challenges, he offered his talents to SVP, a management consultancy agency. “Integrating an SME allowed me both to decide an implement various projects”. Two years later he was appointed General Manager d’Europarts, a bulk merchant in computer and ancillary spare parts. This function allowed him to discover international management functions. In 2007, he moved to LexisNexis : “Joining this SME, I missed out on the innovation side, but understandingly an SME cannot take as many risks as a major company can”. LexisNexis, proposing a unique, worldwide legal data base, reinvested 7% of its annual revenue in R&D. “With this company, I discovered a rare balance between technologies and contents with a management staff who leave the personnel lots of degrees of freedom for creativity”, says the current head of the French operations of a group worth 7 billion euros, present in over 100 countries. The fraction of the annual revenue is digital activities has risen from 30% in 2007 to 50% today. Technological evolutions have been multiplied since the data base was first put “on line” in 2004 and up to the development of a search engine specialized in finding legal information and data over the entire Internet. “The technical data acquired during my studies did not serve me directly but my engineering background did provide for reactivity and gave me a logical mind which proved very useful in negotiations and in my management functions”, he concludes. Could his case be a good example for student engineers at UTC? A double competence engineer- marketing & management is a highly sought profile by innovating companies whatever their sector of activity.