21: The spirit of entrepreneurship at UTC

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. 

“Among our com­ing events, do not miss out on the “Forum Entre­prise” spe­cial­ly aimed at SMEs and inno­v­a­tive com­pa­nies, organ­ised by the UTC Direc­torate for Inno­va­tion and Part­ner­ships; this will be held May 2, 2013. “There is by the way anoth­er “Forum Entre­prise” organ­ised at and by UTC but we saw that the SMEs found it hard to have their say faced with the large multi­na­tion­al groups,” adds Benoît. “What we have decid­ed now is to hold a spe­cial SME Day, once a year, organ­ised along the same lines”.


* 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.


Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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