French research park Digiteo aims to be hub for IT and scientific researchers (interview)

25 Sep 2012

At last Saturday’s Career Zoo careers event, representatives from the Paris-based research park Digiteo were in Dublin to meet with Irish researchers. We speak to director Maurice Robin to learn more about Digiteo’s collaborative research focus around IT.

Digiteo is a research park that is based in the Saclay area of Paris and was set up in 2007. Along with some funding from the French government, it was created by six institutions – the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA); CNRS, the National Centre for Scientific Research; the engineering school Ecole Polytechnique; INRIA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control; the French graduate school of engineering Supélec; and Université Paris-Sud 11.

“Since then six other institutions have joined the park,” explains Robin.

Information science and technology

He says that the park started as an academic research cluster dedicated to IT. And for the past two years Digiteo has been part of the Campus Paris Saclay – a cluster of 23 research laboratories focusing on the areas of information science and technology.

“All of these institutions realised that there was a lot to gain from working together much more to develop their own research and to increase the economic impact of this research.”

Robin says this includes developing prototypes to demonstrate to potential customers or companies.

Digiteo encompasses joint research projects, chairs, a visiting scientists programme, and thematic meetings and conferences. And in relation to technology transfer, Robin says that Digiteo has created what it calls a ‘maturation scheme’. The idea of this scheme is to take research and look at its usefulness for the market and issues such as intellectual property rights.

“Then there is the question of getting at least some prototype or demonstration ready,” he explains. Based on this scheme Robin says there have been some start-ups that have spawned from research.

New research fields

And while Digiteo is just focused on IT research right now, mainly software and systems, he says the aim is to branch out into other fields, including biotechnology, engineering, mechanics, physics, nanotechnology.

The cluster now has 2,600 scientists, with this figure including PhD students and post-docs.

“We have launched more than 100 joint projects. We have 10 active chairs and launched 22 maturation projects over the last five years.”

According to Robin, one of Digiteo’s strong points is interactive visualisation, with several labs having joined together to create an installation.

“We also have another shared platform for virtual reality. We also have a wider project known as Digiscope.”

He says that Digiteo also tries to attract post-docs and PhD students from other countries.

Career Zoo and meeting researchers

As for Digiteo’s presence at Career Zoo in Dublin last Saturday, Robin says that the research park is very interested in attracting students, post-docs or people who already have PhDs to do research for a while in its teams, so the aim was to create an affinity with the Irish research landscape and to make connections.

“We also have some institutions and labs which are interested in sending students in the other direction.” Already, some of Digiteo’s teams are collaborating with researchers at Trinity College Dublin, for example.

Finally, in relation to Digiteo’s plans for the coming years, Robin points to how it will also be adding another element focused on introducing education programmes at master’s level as well as at PhD level.

“One of the major extensions will be to work on education,” he adds.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic