UTC, a local ecosystem that benefits the town of Compiègne

Com­bin­ing the assets of a uni­ver­si­ty with those of an engi­neer­ing school, UTC-Com­pieg­ne rep­re­sents a local inno­va­tion ecosys­tem where stu­dents are encour­aged to take the ini­tia­tive and become involved in the life of the city. The school is locat­ed on sev­er­al sites, all with­in the city of Com­piègne. As a result, the entire urban area ben­e­fits from a dynam­ic that is more than promis­ing. Inter­view with Philippe Mari­ni, May­or of Com­piègne, Chair­man of the Com­piègne Region Urban Area and Hon­orary Sen­a­tor for Oise.

What is your view of the history of the UTC, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary?

Jean Legendre * set up UTC at a time when many peo­ple were opposed to it after the events of May 68. Elect­ed mem­bers of the town coun­cil and local res­i­dents were opposed to the idea of set­ting up a uni­ver­si­ty in the heart of the town. Pierre Guil­lau­mat, a for­mer min­is­ter under Gen­er­al de Gaulle and Jean Legendre were able to impose their vision for Com­piègne. At the time, UTC proved itself high­ly inno­v­a­tive in mak­ing this estab­lish­ment a uni­ver­si­ty and a grande école of tech­nol­o­gy, even though these sub­jects were “despised” by a whole sec­tion of the intel­li­gentsia. Today, UTC is an edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion ben­e­fit­ting from a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion, with part­ner­ships in Chi­na and Brazil, for exam­ple. It is one of the best engi­neer­ing schools in France. What’s more, it has become a major asset for the city and a mag­net for brains and busi­ness­es. Thanks to the pres­ence of UTC, a favourable ecosys­tem for the devel­op­ment of com­pa­nies with jobs that can­not be relo­cat­ed has been estab­lished in the area. Com­piègne would not be Com­piègne with­out UTC!

What links does the university have with the town of Compiègne?

The town and its conur­ba­tion have ben­e­fit­ed enor­mous­ly from the pres­ence of the uni­ver­si­ty. First of all, it’s locat­ed in the town cen­tre, so it brings in young peo­ple, which makes our town cen­tre more dynam­ic. Shops and ser­vices, such as sports clubs and cul­tur­al life, all ben­e­fit from the pres­ence of these young peo­ple. UTC’s com­mu­ni­ty life is also part of the city’s live­li­ness. The Imag­i­nar­i­um Fes­ti­val is a pop­u­lar event for young peo­ple. Fes­tupic livens up the streets and parks in June. Of course, I can­not list all 155 UTC asso­ci­a­tions, but they are all use­ful. As for Tous Unis pour la Cité, this oper­a­tion, which is now 10 years old, has made it pos­si­ble to nor­malise rela­tions between young stu­dents and local res­i­dents by inte­grat­ing them into their adopt­ed city from Sep­tem­ber onwards. Every year, the new under­grad­u­ate intake gets involved in improv­ing the town by help­ing the munic­i­pal ser­vices, repaint­ing a door, repair­ing a gate or plant­i­ng bulbs for spring. It’s a smart way of con­tribut­ing to the day­to- day life of the peo­ple of Com­piègne and get­ting adopt­ed. It’s also a way for young peo­ple to expe­ri­ence the real­i­ty of life in Com­piègne’s neigh­bour­hoods. The UTC is also an archi­tec­tur­al link that struc­tures the South of the town. The main entrance to the town is via the main road that pass­es in front of the Pierre Guil­lau­mat Cen­tre, then in front of the Inno­va­tion Cen­tre, and in fact unites the town and its uni­ver­si­ty. Com­piègne’s mod­ern urban devel­op­ment over the last 50 years has been part­ly shaped by the devel­op­ment of the university.

Tell us about the projects and work being carried out by research scientists and students that are having an impact on the city, particularly in terms of a sustainable city.

. On the com­mu­ni­ty side, we have two areas of work with the UTC. First­ly, I’d like to empha­sise the excel­lent rela­tion­ship we have with the world of research. Lec­tur­ers and stu­dents reg­u­lar­ly help us to move for­ward with our projects. For exam­ple, the sta­tion eco-neigh­bour­hood project relies heav­i­ly on the work of stu­dents and their aca­d­e­mics, both in terms of con­sul­ta­tion with the sta­tion’s res­i­dents and users, which is essen­tial for us, and in terms of find­ing solu­tions adapt­ed to the site’s envi­ron­men­tal con­straints. We have been award­ed the Eco-quarti­er label. This is a process that phas­es each stage of the project with strin­gent eco­log­i­cal require­ments. The impact must be car­bon-neu­tral, and we expect UTC to sup­port us in each of these areas: the reor­gan­i­sa­tion of traf­fic flows, the place giv­en to soft traf­fic, park­ing arrange­ments, resilient con­struc­tion, green spaces, appro­pri­ate pub­lic light­ing.… Here, UTC has a unique place to put the knowl­edge it has acquired into prac­tice and to pro­duce in situ the fruit of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research. It is the very foun­da­tion of the uni­ver­si­ty to pro­duce intel­li­gence for the ben­e­fit of soci­ety. We also work with UTC via our busi­ness incu­ba­tor. Many start-ups from the UTC devel­op their indus­tri­al projects in our incu­ba­tor in the Rives de l’Oise Tech­nol­o­gy Park, which has around twen­ty com­pa­nies that are gen­er­al­ly the result of pri­vate ini­tia­tives in con­junc­tion with young research sci­en­tists an engi­neers. This link ensures that fun­da­men­tal research and applied research are not pit­ted against each oth­er, but rather that all the right con­di­tions are cre­at­ed for the emer­gence of inno­va­tion to ben­e­fit both peo­ple and the economy.

What are your expectations for the future with the UTC?

Prof. Claire Rossi, the new President&Vice- Chan­cel­lor, Direc­tor of UTC, is a local fig­ure! You can feel this in our dis­cus­sions. She knows and loves Com­piègne and wants to strength­en the links between the town and the uni­ver­si­ty. On this basis, we are going to con­sol­i­date UTC’s local devel­op­ment plan. We will sup­port her in fur­ther devel­op­ing the uni­ver­si­ty, which needs land to expand and increase its stu­dent intake capac­i­ty. She and I share this builder’s spir­it, and her strat­e­gy for UTC can only be a good omen for the town. As anoth­er area for devel­op­ing our rela­tions, I have high hopes for UTC’s skills in the very promis­ing field of ecol­o­gy, as we have ini­ti­at­ed with the Eco-quarti­er sta­tion. We all need to be involved in this area, and I know that I can count on com­mit­ted and effi­cient peo­ple. Final­ly, dur­ing our ini­tial dis­cus­sions, Prof. Rossi affirmed her desire to con­sol­i­date the uni­ver­si­ty’s rela­tions with the local eco­nom­ic fab­ric, and in par­tic­u­lar with SMEs. This is an area in which we can be very proac­tive, giv­en our very good knowl­edge of this sec­tor, which is very present in our inter­com­mu­nal area.

*Jean Legendre pre­ced­ed Philippe Mari­ni as May­or of Compiègne

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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