41 : UTC reveals its Research Road-Map to 2023

By the end of year 2016, the HCERES will have assessed all the UTC laboratories for the 5 year period, 2012-2017. The University is taking this opportunity to update its scientific research policy for the forthcoming contract (2018-2023). Interactions zooms in for its readers discovering the major orientations and how they will be implemented in the UTC research units.

41 : UTC reveals its Research Road-Map to 2023

Avenues: an interdisciplinary approach to urban dynamics

The UTC laboratory ‘Avenues’ addresses the question of sustainable cities. In order to comply better with the expectations generated by major urban challenges, it has redefined the framework of its research programmes for coming years. The programme contains 5 priority lines of investigation, more interdisciplinarity and more cooperation not only with other UTC laboratories but also with external partners.

Cities, i.e., urban areas, represent an extremely complex system of systems. To come to grips efficiently with the problems, the UTC-Avenues laboratory has opted to employ a systemic approach rather than a theme-by-theme analysis. “Up to date, we had two ‘themes’”, explains Manuela Sechilariu, Avenue’s Director: “One theme is addressed by engineering scientists (civil, electrical, mechanical and urban engineering), the other by specialists in social sciences (urbanism, architecture, geography). From now on, we shall have a single tem which will combine its range of skills across the board to address 5 research priorities and transition that cities will face tomorrow”.


Five major challenges

The first challenge: smart electric grids, one of the keys to implementing energy transition policies. In this area, UTC-Avenues is instigating questions of energy management and smart micro-networks on the scale of single buildings and neighbourhoods. What is at stake is to consume locally wind and solar power produced locally rather than inject into the national grid, which was not designed to absorb electricity from intermittent, decentralised sources.

The second challenge lies at the interface between energy and environmental transitions: the transportation and mobility networks. In this field, UTC-Avenues studies flow management and availability factors for urban transportation facilities as well as the infrastructures and digital equipment needed to recharge electric vehicles the numbers of which will multiply, privileging locally produced electricity.

The third challenge – in a connection with the environmental transition, mentioned above, will be the control of hydrological risks and those associated with climate change. Here, UTC-Avenues is seeking to model flash floods, by integrating the concomitant ingredients (high rainfall conjugated with high tides in coastal urbanized areas) and likewise for uncertainty factors. The aim is to design toads as aids to decision-making such as may be needed to decide whether to evacuate or not a given population at risk.

The fourth challenge lies in the digital revolution and associate transitions, with research in hand for Avenues on 3D modelling of existing buildings. What is at stake her, principally, is to facilitate and optimize building uses, coupling these 3D models with data collected (surface of building internal space, equipment installed, expected operational equipment life-cycles …).

Last but not least, the fifth challenge – urban models, planning and ‘metropolisation’ – depends on analysis of urban transitions taken in a wide connotation, including demographic and socio-economic factors. Avenue’s research commitments will cover three thematics – building multi-criteria tools to assess the existing buildings, compared with figures in a sustainable planning file; analysis of the relevance of regulations faced with ongoing transitions (for example, what changes will be needed if a policy decision is made to build smart grids?) and creation of tools to aid decisions to optimise existing infrastructures and to prolong as far as possible their operational usefulness (adapting the structures to demographic evolution, to new uses …).

“The various subjects we can address via these 5 priority axes are closely meshed together, hence the interest to deal with them in an interdisciplinary manner”, underscores Manuela Sechilariu. “Compared with other laboratories working in the same fields, our stance at UTC-Avenues is quite unique. The challenge we face over the coming years will be to prove that it is indeed advantageous”.


A growing emphasis on mobility

Another novelty feature: the laboratory has reinforced its potential in the theme of mobility. It has just created an academic Chair for Smart Mobility and Territorial Dynamics and will also inaugurate a technological, platform for recharging all-electric vehicles – then charge being collected via photovoltaic sunshade shelters installed in the UTC Innovation Centre’s parking lot. This new tool will allow UTC-Avenues to validate a certain number of theoretical concepts: how many cars parked there can be correctly recharged, in what lapse of time and how does one go about management peak demands …?

As will be the case for the academic Chair on Mobility, the parking lot facility will be a vector for interdisciplinary studies in the laboratory. “It will contribute notably to bringing together research scientists and engineers who study electricity-powered transportation with those who investigated smart micro networks, given that the two themes are closely tied”, notes Manuela Sechilariou. “But, our objective is also to support synergies with other UTC laboratories, in in particular the LEC, who carry out research on electric vehicle batteries – and with external partners such as Renault, already an industrial partner for UTC and Védécom, the Institute for Smart, Mobile Carbon-free Vehicles (of which Avenues and the UTC-LEC Lab are members)”. Synergies in the long term could also lead to the creation of a Living Lab on the theme of electricity-powered mobility and therefore would reinforce UTC in this very strategic area.