For the second time in a matter of weeks, I strolled, mesmerized, through the “Dolce Vita?” temporary exhibition at Musee d’Orsay in Paris, which covers Italian visual arts in the first half of the 20th century. As we see the poetry of an Enrico Prampolini or an Achille Funi and the exhuberance of a Giorgio de Chirico or a Vittorio Zecchin gradually grinding to a halt, there could be no starker reminder that the freedom to experiment, the urge to innovate, and the joy to create can never be taken for granted. Read more…
As a book review, it doesn’t start well: I have forgotten the author’s name and the book’s title, and, to make it worse, I only ever read a sample chapter. In my defense, it was about 35 years ago during an English class in my secondary education middle years.
Here is what I remember. Read more…
On a quiet Boxing Day morning (young ones fully occupied with new electronic goods, teenagers still unwakeable) I stumble on the surprising 17th century story of the making of Versailles fountains, in Erik Orsenna‘s wandering biography of André Le Nôtre. Versailles’ surroundings have no natural water reserves, whether lake or river, posing a major challenge to the running of the many fountains that Le Nôtre, the King’s Gardener in Chief, has planned for Versailles.
This morning I took my youngest to 36 rue de Vaugirard in Paris, to show him the last original public display of the Metre Standard dating back from the 1790s when the meter was officially adopted. The story of the metre offers a good illustration of the gap between ideation and innovation. It also illustrates that, as much as common wisdom makes them responsible for killing innovative ideas, large organisations can also be instrumental in turning an idea into a full-scale mainstream product.
In the heart of Paris, between Les Halles, Chatelet and Beaubourg Centre & Modern Art Museum, the Anticafé has recently opened. Given the number of cafés and restaurants around, some of them much better located to catch the eye of the many tourists, one may wonder about the viability of the project.
However, over the past decade, another new entrant, Starbucks, has been massively successful in Paris. In a market that is close to saturated, it would be difficult to argue that customers were drawn to Starbucks for lack of competition. In fact, Starbucks’ success was down to addressing the unmet needs of a segment of the population for a wider choice of high quality coffees, no alcohol, wifi, comfortable premises.
Where Starbucks innovated by changing the product offering and consumer experience, the Anticafé innovates by reversing the business model.
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.