A new look at Bertrand Piccard a spirited high-flying pioneer and self-styled “SAVANTURIER”*

At the begin­ning of Octo­ber, UTC had the priv­i­lege and plea­sure to wel­come the ‘sci­en­tist-adven­tur­er’ Bertrand Pic­card to the Mai­son de la Cul­ture in Amiens. He gave a lec­ture on the theme: «When pio­neer­ing spir­its invent the future» against the back­ground of his expe­ri­ence with Solar Impulse. A look back at the amount of cre­ativ­i­ty and impro­vi­sa­tion it takes to achieve the impos­si­ble sometimes. 

Solar Impulse was not designed nor built to car­ry pas­sen­gers but to car­ry a mes­sage. We want to demon­strate the impor­tance of the pio­neer­ing spir­it, encour­ag­ing peo­ple to ques­tion their cer­tain­ties. Our world needs new solu­tions to improve the qual­i­ty of life for human­i­ty. Clean tech­nolo­gies and renew­able ener­gies are part of this,» Bertrand Pic­card reminds us from the out­set dur­ing the con­fer­ence he held in Amiens at the invi­ta­tion of UTC. In 2016, Bertrand Pic­card and André Borschberg accom­plished the feat of fly­ing around the world with­out fuel, using only the ener­gy of the Sun, aboard the solar plane Solar Impulse 2. A human and tech­no­log­i­cal epic, capa­ble of inspir­ing the envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies and soci­ety of tomor­row. Its strength: cre­ative inno­va­tion at the ser­vice of a vision. The com­bined strengths of more than fifty employ­ees, sup­port­ed by a hun­dred experts and advi­sors, have made it pos­si­ble to push back the lim­its and achieve impres­sive tech­no­log­i­cal progress. Numer­ous anec­dotes in this adven­ture also remind us of the extent to which adapt­abil­i­ty and impro­vi­sa­tion were also required in what was so well-pre­pared. «For exam­ple, the Solar Impulse 2 solar plane had to be shel­tered in a spe­cial­ly designed hangar in Nagoya, in cen­tral Japan, dur­ing the jour­ney. We had to make a stopover there while wait­ing for good weath­er. We had to impro­vise and our team had a dif­fi­cult time. 

Ambition and humility 

In this cut­ting-edge and futur­is­tic project, empiri­cism is not the order of the day. Each con­cept, each part of the solar air­craft must pass sev­er­al tests to be cer­ti­fied “cer­ti­fied ready to fly’. «I have set up a whole mech­a­nism for inno­va­tion through cre­ativ­i­ty. For me, inno­va­tion is also based on psy­cho­log­i­cal notions. It means get­ting into a state of mind. It’s about look­ing for some­thing oth­er than what you know. It requires a lot of hon­esty, humil­i­ty and ambi­tion,» says the Swiss ‘sci­en­tist’ who is also a psy­chi­a­trist. He imme­di­ate­ly accept­ed the invi­ta­tion of UTC, because ‘it is a tech­ni­cal uni­ver­si­ty and it is very impor­tant to recall the cre­ative, inno­v­a­tive and eco­log­i­cal role that tech­nol­o­gy must advo­cate’. For him, to inno­vate is to break with the sta­tus quo, with what we have always done and always thought. Artis­tic cre­ativ­i­ty and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion ulti­mate­ly use the same process. «We try to break the par­a­digms to break away and try to find oth­er things. The artist, like the explor­er, like the inno­va­tor, are peo­ple who are not sat­is­fied with what they have. They want some­thing else, some­thing dif­fer­ent and bet­ter. The avi­a­tion indus­try is now caught in a strait­jack­et. If you are big­ger accord­ing to them, you are heav­ier. How­ev­er, with Solar Impulse, despite its size, we have man­aged to make it light. In fact, it was the naval indus­try that man­aged to build this plane, because the aero­nau­tics indus­try thought it was impossible. 

* Play on “savant” and “adven­tur­er”

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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