Moving towards a third industrial revolution

Inasmuch as the Region Hauts-de-France wishes to enhance the emergence of a new economy based on energy transition, it has initiated since 2013 the ‘Rev3’ programme to support the players in this industrial revolution. UTC - in its pioneer position in numerous sustainable development fields - is totally committed to this innovative approach. Philippe Vasseur, Special Commissioner for the Reindustrialization of Hauts-de-France spoke with Interactions’ reporter about the participation of our universities and engineering schools in this ambitious project.

Moving towards a third industrial revolution

What role will Research and Higher Education play in the 3rd Industrial Revolution (so-called ‘Rev3’)? 

Their role is primordial and the French Universities fully recognize this. So what exactly is the ‘third industrial revolution (‘Rev3’), when it is not an attempt to rename the far-reaching economic and societal transformations we witness today? We are living in a connected society and this ongoing revolution together with a desire to economize on resources and preserve the planet is changing the way we consume, exchange, house our families, move, produce goods and services … Scientists, research workers and students have known this for a long time, inasmuch as they are constantly at the cutting edge of innovation. It is for this reason that they figure among the first actors to move resolutely into the third industrial revolution as it impacts the French Region Hauts de France. And, if we are to judge by the increasing number of projects in our universities, research centres, laboratories, corporate clusters, they indeed enjoy a head-start in the search for innovative solutions and the implementation of new models. Let me cite the example of the Catholic University of Lille with its Live Tree project which aims at transforming the Vauban precinct of Lille (where the University is today) into a permanent campus, including several ‘demonstrator’ buildings; or, yet another example, the Sunrise project of the University of Lille which prefigures what a fully smart city might look like in the future.


What opportunities does our Region offer in terms of engineering and research training schemes in the fields of energy transition, digital sciences and their applications?

This Region, now called Hauts-de-France, is in fact leading the field, making a wide range of innovative offers. Obviously, UTC holds a key and privileged position with its research lab Heudiasyc; LRCS with its energy hub working on storage issues and solutions; L2EP and the laboratory for civil engineering and geo-environmental questions at Polytech Lille who are working on the theme of ‘Smart Grids’. The group of engineering schools called Yncréa has just inaugurated its Master’s degree in Smart Cities, this being in addition to the Cloud Computing Master’s degree at INSET and the IRVE Managerial Project at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers (Lille), not forgetting “energy and environmental efficiency” at the CESI, Arras or UTC’s “Chemistry- Transformation and Valorisation of Natural Resources”. The Region’s executive President, Xavier Bertrand, entertains the ambition to multiply the ‘Rev3’ projects at every level and in every location possible.


What paths are you exploring to bring academic lab work closer in line with industrial needs? 

One of the paths is to see the development of the technology-intensive platforms such as the techno-centres which will provide conducive meeting points for research scientists, business executives and engineers who are working on applied research projects. A call for projects has just been launched for the installation of a methanisation techno-centre, a specialty field where UTC and UniLaSalle, Beauvais have already proven they possess the necessary expertise and skills.


How do you see UTC’s participation in ‘Rev3’?

I’m very proud and sincerely happy to see UTC participate with its world-renowned academic excellence. Our ambition will be to enhance and amplify the dynamics already displayed by private companies, local authorities and territories, engineering schools, universities and citizens whose desire it is to make Hauts-de-France one of the most advanced regions in the world in terms of its sustainable, connected economy and to benefit in terms of added value, competitivity and job openings. In concrete terms, this wide cooperation is already coming to be since UTC and its President were present and took part in the ‘Rev3 Business Days’ conference in February 2017.

What specific advantages are there at UTC to allow the university to become an important player in the 3rd industrial revolution in Hauts-de-France?

Among UTC’s 9 research laboratories, 5 have direct connections with ‘Rev3’ via their research themes and investigations: multi-scale urban modelling (UTC-Avenues) which examines “cities and associate sustainable territories”: Integrated Transformation of Renewable Matter (UTC-TIMR) and Enzyme and Cell Engineering (UTC-GEC) with their “resourced materials and production cycles”; Heuristics and diagnosis of complex systems (UTC-Heudiasyc) or UTC-LEC who analyse “smart, non-polluting transportation systems” . I should also include 2 technology-intensive platforms that have a bearing on ‘Rev3’: Stella used to study a dedicated micro-grid for recharge POS stations for all-electric cars, building electric supply and PLER to study electric micro-grids as well as the ‘Excellency’ Chairs of Green Chemistry and Processes and Smart Mobility and Dynamic territories.