Paris Region PhD: supporting the digital transition by PhD


If the PhD degree is an international reference, its equivalent in France, the doctorate, does not yet have the aura it deserves on the French job market. Yet it is a potential vector of innovation and economic development. Its valorization thus constitutes a leitmotiv of the public policies of the French State.

One of the recent acts of this recognition is the registration in 2018 of this diploma in the National Register of Professional Certifications ( RNCP ), the database that lists the diplomas recognized by companies and the corresponding skills. Competitiveness factor, the doctorate is also relevant to local communities, especially as higher education and research are anchored more and more in the territories .

Worn by HESAM University, the device “1000 Doctoral territories” is an example. In particular, it aims to encourage regions, cities and departments to make greater use of Industrial Training Conventions through Research (or CIFRE ). Even more recently, another initiative testifies to this interest of the territorial world: “Paris Région PhD”.

Thematic targeting

With this new mechanism , the Île-de-France Region plans to support up to 100 projects up to 2022, up to € 100,000 per 36-month doctoral research project – a total of € 10 million committed. due. To benefit from this, projects must be based on a partnership between a public research laboratory and an actor from the socio-economic world (company, association, community).

Another condition is to deal with issues related to digital transformation and major areas of interest identified by the region. From maths to gene therapy to astrophysics, there are thirteen, in resonance with socio-economic issues. Humanities also have their place, since they include a numerical dimension (remember in passing that, in the case of CIFRE, 28% of projects supported are SHS).

However, the Ile-de-France region is distinguished from the CIFRE conventions by its thematic targeting. In principle, without presuming projects that have been selected in the first year of operation, this digital orientation allows however to support very different projects, given the diversity of issues: skills of staff, presence in larger markets, logistics, innovative product development …

Another difference is that the call for projects has a tropism for SMEs and mid-sized companies (ETI), evoking “special attention” to them. In comparison with the CIFRE, where the share of SMEs in the beneficiaries is a subject of attention , it does not constitute a criterion guiding the choice of one project over another. On the other hand, the Île-de-France region demonstrates the desire to help these companies in particular, while mentioning that consulting firms, which can benefit from CIFRE, are not eligible.

Public law contracts

The projects supported by “Paris Région PhD” will lead to the recruitment of PhD students not by the partner company (which is the case for CIFRE), but by a public institution. In doing so, doctoral students will hold a doctoral contract under public law.

This distinction is important to understand the positioning vis-à-vis the CIFRE, which many companies, despite the success of the device, hesitate to use. Among the explanations are the fear of mounting a file, the lack of resources to carry out these administrative procedures, fears about the risks of carrying the financing of the project.

“Paris Région PhD” thus allows companies to access research by supporting fewer direct risks, without excluding the possibility for these companies to contribute to the financing of the project. In particular, one can imagine companies financing ancillary remuneration for the doctoral student, especially since it would then be eligible under the Research Tax Credit and therefore tax-free.

If the effectiveness of this hypothesis remains to be appreciated, the remuneration of the digital sector should be compared to that of conventional doctoral contracts. The Minister of Higher Education Frédérique Vidal has just recognized the need to reassess . Also, the future will raise the question of whether this type of device can help to orient brilliant students from Master to PhD in the digital sector.

Finally, the carrying of the contract by a public research operator has consequences in terms of intellectual and industrial property, with a negotiation to be made between the employer and the socio-economic partner. In this context, the funding of the PhD student being very largely public, the device provides (in accordance with the law) that “all publications resulting from research work should be accessible in open archives to ensure access to the resulting data “.

An evaluation to anticipate

The device of the Île-de-France region therefore adopts a philosophy which, if it recalls that of the CIFRE, can rather be understood as complementing, with specific modalities. It is also different from the practices usually implemented by regional authorities.

Indeed, most of them generally offer grants or calls for projects for the financing of doctoral contracts, as in Brittany or in the Hauts-de-France . The latter also proposes to support the research activities carried out jointly by a university and a company, like the Occitanie region which also supports such partnership projects , with a bonus of 5000 € for the laboratories that supervise CIFREs. .

Thus, the relevance of “Paris Region PhD” will be judged on the basis of its articulation with the other devices in place, but also its impact on the territory. Considering the substantial financial resources provided by the Île-de-France region, it will remain to evaluate the success in terms of its objectives: what profiles of candidates? What are the company profiles (thematic, SME, ETI …)? What concrete economic impacts for the latter, both for their development and for scientific employment within them?

Will the device have an effect on the careers of doctorates after their thesis? Will it contribute to the development of knowledge in general, in terms of skills and scientific strengths, for laboratories and companies in the Ile-de-France in particular? The results of the first year of the call for projects will undoubtedly bring some interesting first answers to these questions.

Author Bio: Pierronnet Romain has a PhD in management sciences from the University Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne (UPEC)