From science to market: “I don’t have time to die, I’m too busy”
Marc Giget’s annual innovation conference held this year at Sorbonne University, Paris, was packed with first-rate presentations, from start-ups to multinationals, from public sector to private enterprise, from the frontier of science to social innovation. In today’s post I’ll focus on inspiring examples of cutting-edge science advancement and transfer.
CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), which was represented at the conference by its Innovation Director Pierre Gohar, is the main body for public research in France, covering 10 scientific disciplines: biology, chemistry, earth sciences & astronomy, ecology & environment, engineering & systems, humanities & social sciences, information sciences, mathematics, nuclear & particle physics, physics. In the last 10 years, following the Allegre innovation bill, CNRS has undergone a massive cultural transformation, whereby scientists are strongly encouraged not only to publish as they used to do, but also to file and to leverage patents through start-ups and industrial partnerships. In its 2013 Innovation Awards, CNRS has just recognized three outstanding scientists who have demonstrated such an enterprising spirit.
Philippe Cinquin, 57, is a mathematician and medical practitioner who has been pioneering, developing and implementing computer/robot assisted surgery. A prime illustration of the strength of multi-disciplinarity for innovation, he is the author of 28 patents and has contributed to the creation of 10 start-ups.
Ludwik Leibler, 61, has been operating at the interface between chemistry and physics to develop self-healing elastomers as well as a new class of polymers called Vitrimers, light and hard as thermosetting polymers, infinitely repairable as glass. The author of 47 patents, he has participated in several industrial partnerships.
Stephane Mallat, 50, mathematician, has pioneered the creation of algorithms for the representation and compression of images, which have led to the introduction of the JPEG standard. With his next algorithm of image digitalisation, he has founded and led the start-up Let It Wave that has become a manufacturer of chips to enhance image quality in HD televisions. The author of 10 patents, he has seen his research applied in satellite and medical imagery.
Listening to these three outstanding scientists and their colleagues, I was amazed by three innovation success factors that they have brillantly illustrated:
– Firstly, the trans-discipline nature of their scientific research, which enhances the chances of connecting the dots, but is all the more remarkable in a world where science is so advanced that specialization seems the only way to reach world-class.
– Then, the will to see their discoveries transferred and applied such that they can make a difference to people.
– Last but not least, their bubbling energy for new projects. As Ludwik Leibler said in his acceptance speech: “I come home in the evening and say to my wife: I don’t have time to die, I’m too busy!”