34 : The Sorbonne Universities (SU) cluster and interdisciplinarity

Les rapprochements entre universités restent toujours des sujets politiquement sensibles. Et trouver la position de l’UTC dans une Comue encadrée par les deux grandes universités que sont Paris Sorbonne et l'UPMC ne va pas sans poser quelques questions. Entre autres, celle de la technologie et de sa place dans le monde des sciences traditionnelles. Celle des sciences humaines et sociales ou des arts et lettres est une force intégrée depuis l'origine dans les travaux de recherche et la pédagogie de l'UTC.

34 : The Sorbonne Universities (SU) cluster and interdisciplinarity

The Sorbonne Universities (SU) cluster and interdisciplinarity

Yann Moulier-Boutang

The two large universities focus largely on the mastery of research work and the teaching of natural sciences and humanities, and saw technology as one of the consequences of pure science. To illustrate this point, we observed that UPMC proposed engineering courses but technology was seen as a consequence of its statutory obligations as a scientific establishment.

For UTC, technology is a science, the science of techniques, processes … Investigating hard facts and implementing technical processes is a full-scale science, and in contradistinction to so-called natural sciences focuses not so much on what “is” but more on what man can assemble, build … without losing from sight that they go both necessarily hand in hand and rely on each other.

Notwithstanding, the difference noted above is not an opposition, but it allows us to make a rewarding combination of complementarities. UTC talks a global view of technology and thus takes into its stride the contributions of social sciences and humanities, thereby opening up a new landscape between Paris 4 (Sorbonne) and Paris 6 (UPMC) and acts as a sort of ‘missing link’.

For example, in the field of health engineering, UTC has integrated both scientific and technological innovations in terms of the equipment acquired, and also the human (patient) aspects. Given that the prime objective of the Sorbonne Universities Cluster is to build up a community to open up new opportunities for launching new research topics, this form of complementarity opens the way for research scientists to set up partnerships with colleagues who otherwise (i.e., outside the COMUE framework) would have been difficult to access.


To date, multiple efforts have been made to identify potential partners in the COMUE and to establish project agreements to help build the COMUE further. This phase is now mature and the Cluster is at a crossroads. UTC has the intention to enhance and bolster the vision of technology and to integrate it in an ‘excellence’ certified ensemble that will gain in international recognition and notoriety, an aim for which the policy coherence is patent and potentially attractive, as we said above. One of the challenges consists of going beyond a simplified project logic to make good use of the ‘open’ features and structural assets that the COMUE can offer. Various Chairs and Institutes that have been instated recently mobilize strongly anchored research programmes where the benefits have exceeded the expectations in terms financial support and the intrinsic ‘opportunity’ of the projects.

UTC has found a rewarding position in this new and dynamic framework and has become invested in health, heritage, humanities, musicology, environment and ecology, which are all themes carried by the five new Sorbonne Universities (SU) institutes. Via SU, UTC has been in a position to set up common campus operations and shared pedagogical innovations. We believe that beyond the ‘ordinary’ and traditionally complex relationships, sometimes stereotyped, arts, humanities and the sciences and technology, can all progress together within the Sorbonne Universities Cluster.