UTC, a three stage rocket boosting entrepreneurship
The first stage comprises modules that initiate the undergraduates to creation and management of innovative companies — these courses are given by Joseph ORLINSKI. “One prerequisite we have here, enabling registration in the courses, is to present a project!” Under the course code GE15, the students approach the corporate world in terms of company creation and development. Joseph himself graduated from UTC in 1986, became a company director. He therefore is in an excellent position to provide pragmatic lessons.
He has been doing so since 1995, a time when the former President François PECCOUD decided to make valorisation of innovation through corporate creation one of the University’s priorities. “The very first thing I ask my students to do is to dream! says Joseph. They must follow these dreams and passions; in a word “think big”, before coming back to Earth and becoming pragmatic.” This approach marks the minds of the students, and those who later set up a business often call back — even after a few years have elapsed — to ask for advice or help or to join the UTC Business Club.
“Creating a business enterprise is not just wishful thinking”
“UTC-Compiègne offers two assets, beginning with a training that encourages and enhances students’ initiative and the the spirit of enterprise”. There are course modules like Project Management (GE37) or Management and Marketing of Innovation (GE39) and the minor option FIRME (Training in Innovation and global enterprise relationships” or gain the speciality “Management of Innovative projects, which is in fcat transverse to all UTC’s technical Departments.
“UTC-Compiègne also offers tailor-made assistance for those who have a project. Creating a business enterprise is not just wishful thinking and the young entrepreneurs must not get locked into accounting-financial objectives — they must light fires everywhere. We do a lot of exchange work with the project proponents, future bosses or bosses in position, to help break down the isolation and avoid their losing precious time.”
Joseph ORLINSKI himself has many projects to hand: setting up a training course module for 1st year undergraduates, organising open days to have students, entrepreneurs et ali get together and exchange. The first such event was organised with the IAR Invest Club, and will be convened June 6, 2013; it will serve to introduce actors from “green” technology sectors, including 5 business angels. The theme will be “Entreprise- taking reasonable risks — and the risk of being unreasonable”.
“The entrepreneurs present will not be invited to hard-sell their products or business” adds Joseph ORLINSKI, “but on the contrary to mobilise the young students and explain why it is necessary to raise our heads in France, in a very low profile economic context”.
Gaining a label, a first step towards creation
The second stage of the UTC rocket is the University’s Innovation Centre. “For 3 years now”, explains Benoît EYNARD, “the Innovation Centre has been initiating competitions for innovative projects and the Centre’s Jury awards labels to the most promising received. Labelling a project opens the way for the proponents to mature, to take the new idea to the stage of creating a business operation and place its products on the market-place.”
It is the UTC’s Directorate for Innovation and Partnerships that assists and oversees the technological, economic and marketing aspects of the project as it progresses. External actors are also brought in as and if they can provide an added value to the project: market analysts, designers, biotechnology experts, etc. These add-ons are financed through a maturation fund with the UTC-Compiègne Foundation and represents an envelope close to 125 000 €/yr. The project competition is open to the undergraduates, to teaching and research staff and even to external actors, if they can bee seen to contribute to the local eco-system we have set up in and around Compiègne, initiated by President STORCK.
Among those projects that have been awarded a label, some have already reached corporate creation level, an example being Closycom (July 2012) or Novitact (cf. intra p.15). Others have registered patent claims, e.g. Tatin. When the building programme is finished, the premises of the UTC Innovation Centre will be a focus point for valorising innovation, with sectors reserved for create activities for prototyping, for meeting rooms, etc; “The Innovation Centre will vitalise a proximity network function dedicated specifically to entrepreneurship”, says Benoît EYNARD. There is only one shadow cast on the scene; the Picardie Incubator is undergoing rehabilitation at the moment, and this has left a temporary void in the normal UTC follow-up operations that run from project stage to the market-place. “A second competition has been launched in parallel, used to select student projects even before they reach possible UTC labelling — this enables projects in their very early stages to obtain some financial support and human assistance where needed over a one-semester period. Students here are brim-full of projects, stresses Vanessa CAIGNAULT, who works at the Directorate for Innovation and Partnerships. Some of the pre-labelled selections we help in this way will definitely, I feel, go forward to full label status.”
Third and final stage of the UTC rocket — the SATT unit
The SATTs (acronym in French for Technology Transfer Companies plc) were created by the French Government to accompany those innovative projects that called for high-level support; consequently the SATTs dispose of considerable amounts of human and financial means, explains Benoît EYNARD.
“UTC-Compiègne has entered into an agreement with the University Paris VI (Pierre et Marie Curie), the CNRS, the national Museum of Natural History, with INSEAD-Fontainebleau and the University of Paris ‑Pantheon-Assas in what is known as the SATT Lutech. One of the projects awarded a label by the Innovation Centre, the IDCCM is currently being valorised by Lutech. This is an business start-up offspring of UTC’s BMBI (bioengineering) Laboratory which has developed an innovative system for cell culture protocols that can be of interest to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and/or chemical sectors at large. This ISCCM project needed 300 000 € to move on to the next stage and the Lutech SATT saw fit to help out and finance this”, recalls Benoît EYNARD.
* Société d’accélération du transfert de technologie
In an urban setting, or at work or even out in the wilds, noises can be perceived as nuisance factors; indeed they are ranked among the most common and damaging nuisances met. Accord Acoustique is there to answer a single question: how can we protect people from noise and improve ‘listening’ acoustics? The missions of the agency are of a wide scope, from drawing-board studies, to field monitoring and diagnosis and in-house modelling of situations.
“our missions can last a few hours or run to a few years”, explains Jacques MILLOUET, who was a graduate in UTC’s first class, 1977 – he has chosen Mechanical Engineering (Acoustics) as his speciality at the time of doing his degree. “We really felt like pioneers!” recalls Jacques; he wanted to set up a business, create a company as spoon as he graduate, but this opportunity only came to be some 20 years later, following suit to an economic layoff that allowed him (through the compensation award) to become an entrepreneur under optimal conditions. “One of the problems attached to creating an enterprise is that, simultaneously, it is the right moment, for example, to found a family. Between the years 1985 and 1997, I had acquired an excellent experience in acoustic analysis bureaus. That was beneficial, enabling me to understand fully the techniques involved, but also to help build up a network of contacts and gain some professional recognition for my capabilities and skills”.
Accord Acoustique has an order-book with a wide variety of missions: in industry (working line position noise), machinery, noises affecting the environment, etc., in building sectors (residential homes, cultural sites, university premise, etc.) in the environment (transport, neighbourhood problems, etc.) Ten people work at Accord Acoustique, including 3 UTC graduates! The annual turnover is 925 000 € for 2012, both in France and abroad. The assigned business objective is to maintain this level for 2013 and to develop further in a somewhat ambivalent context. “On one hand, you have the changes in regulations, notably in terms of environment-compliant certificates in the building sector, with new acoustic performance levels as standard; on the other, there is a clear slowing down and thinning out of major work sites, because of the morose economic conditions prevailing today” underlines Jacques MILLOUET – who is still a member of the Mechanical Engineering Bureau at UTC and he hosts placements of 4th (final), year UTC students.
The name of the Eco Solar Breizh car is Heol; it will soon be shipped to Australia t take part in the now famous World Solar Challenge. Since it began in 1987, the race has brought together every year dozens of solar-driven vehicles, driven across the Australian bush from Darwin to Adelaide, with its 3 021 km (as the crows fly) and just as many kangaroos on the way! In fact, Jean-Luc changed to the Australian event after Shell stopped accepting private cars in its annual Ecomarathon. “Our association has about 60 members who are benevolent and passionate about solar cars. We have hosted training sessions for over 110 young persons since 2010, including 3 UTC-Compiègne and 2 UTBM-Belfort-Montbeliard students who stayed 6 months with us. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you gave to believe in what you are doing, in your projects; you have to have good associates and adapt the way you talk about it to the audience you are trying to convince!” explains Jean-Luc who graduated himself from UTC-Compiègne in 1987, following courses in robotics and electro-mechanical drive systems in the mechanical engineering speciality.
In order to succeed in this venture, he put to good use his address book he built while Cap’Tronic adviser to the French Ministry for Industry. Cap’Tronic is a ministerial programme to help in innovation and competitivity questions for SMEs using electronics. Eco Solar Breizh today has some 40 partners and associates, from the Brittany Region to Sojasun (the two principal financiers of the project – total cost 300 000 €), and not forgetting the manufacturer of the solar panels Sillia Energie. The vehicle Heol weighs 150kgh and can reach 100km/h. “Our objective is to finish the race. To do this we have to reduce energy consumption as best we can, an lighten the vehicle, simplify everything we can, optimise the systems … For someone who like technical things, a technophile, it represents a marvellous challenge” adds Jean-Luc enthusiastically. The major innovation we have introduced is that the dash-board is a digital pad and it connects into the electronics of the car. This pad was developed by a Brittany SME Niji. Another innovative feature is the campaign we launched “Adopt a cell!” For just 25€, contributors can ‘purchase a cell’ and thereby support the project. The Bretons have already answered “Ready!”
Today most worn tyres end up in a refuse tip or in cement furnaces, where the rubber is used as a substitute for fossil fuels. “But, in these utilisations, they are not used to produce electricity and the pollutants released into the atmosphere should be looked at carefully. And, if there are only a few old tyre burning installations, the reason is that they are just not worth it”, explains Gregoire. But, he goes on to explain, maybe he has the answer: “I apply the mineral treatment used to extract zinc oxide and cobalt from furnace ashes. There is a process for this, but I am engaged in research work with French, Moroccan and South-African laboratories to improve on the process. Zinc oxide is on the market place for 17 000$US/tonne, cobalt comes in at 47 000 $US/tonne”.
Gregoire graduated from UTC-Compiègne in 1982 and was even instrumental as an undergraduate in starting the “students’ office” BDE. He pursued his studies with an MBA at a French School of Management, Lyons (EM-Lyon). A highlight posting came when he was appointed Director of International Affairs at the Energy and Environment Division of Charbonnages de France Ingénierie (France’s national coal-board). He is readying 3 projects fro tyre incineration, the most advanced being at Strasburg, East France and in Polgar, Hungary. The fist named facility is designed to burn 11 000 tonne/yr tyres in a 31MW co-generator unit (the latter remains to be designed) for a total estimated outlay of 156 M€. In Hungary, the idea is to rehabilitate a power station that has gone bankrupt, with a target of 23 000 tonnes of tyres, with ash processing in France. Now what Gregoire needs now is the hard currency and for this has launched a 78 M€ subscription. He is negotiating currently the worn tyre supplies with French, Luxemburg, Belgian and German.