Research in the Ile -de- France: the challenge of visibility


In terms of higher education and research, Île-de-France presents itself as a territory of superlatives and records. It is home to 150,000 research staff including more than 100,000 researchers , which puts it at the top of the pack of European regions.

This place of choice, it also holds for the publication of patents, while it ranks third in the world for scientific production. Succession is ensured by more than 30,000 doctoral students, or about 40% of the workforce in France, and about 20 billion are invested each year in research and development.

In short, we can assure, without any bragging, that this is a non-standard territory. However, is this place correctly perceived by its actors and competitors? If the potential is there, is recognition not yet in the making? When we talk about innovation arise the names of cities like Shanghai, Beijing, London or Silicon Valley . Is the Île-de-France considered from the same angle?

Density of innovation

Behind this salvo of figures is actually an ecosystem at once very dense and very complex, which blurs the legibility of the territory. Between universities, schools, organizations, research teams, RTRA , LAbex , Equipex , IRT , ITE , SATT , Carnot institutes, competitiveness clusters and business R & D, titles and acronyms abound, organizations are multiplying. In 2017, there were no fewer than 1281 public research organizations (figures IAU 2017 ).

All of this, of course, contributes to the region’s considerable activity and international positioning, but raises issues of identity and strategy. What do we mean by Île-de-France geographically? What are its flagship domains? Who are the actors who wear them?

First, we must see that the region is a territory, composed of several territories. An important double scale to consider. Because even research and development systems, even the most prestigious international clusters, need to incarnate geographically.

Île-de-France is a land of innovation that needs more than ever to reveal itself through clusters well identified around a brand and a dynamic, as in the field. Thus, the region is increasingly seeking to “show” the richness and impact it represents around explicit campuses that are “by far”.

“By far” means as much from Europe, Asia, America, as from companies located in the region, or from the point of view of taxpayers. This too is important, particularly at a time when a major law for multi-year research programming is being prepared . Because the feeling of remoteness is not a function of the geographical distance to the object in question. A lack of readability hinders accessibility.

New brands

We can clearly see the limit of the exercise that would consist of listing the 1,281 research structures (and only for the public) as soon as your interlocutor asks you who are the actors who do the research and innovation of Île-de-France. -France.

This is the reason why new universities of international dimension emerge, carrying all their local Sorbonne University dynamic (resulting from the merging of institutions in 2018) and large so-called “experimental” institutions launched in 2019 – University of Paris, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, PSL University, Paris-Saclay University, Gustave Eiffel University, CY Cergy Paris University.

The territories are organized around new university brands and strong campuses. Actors, including public and private, come together to form the winning equation: training + research + innovation + territory (or campus) = strong academic brand, unifying, readable and therefore visible.

Federate all these tools mentioned above and embody that in territories, that’s the challenge of the major changes underway. This movement gradually structures the region, to make it emerge a more readable map of innovation, and thus gain impact in the world. The war of talent and financing is playing out there. Beyond the legibility of the Île-de-France, it is its competitiveness that is at stake.

Author Bio: François Germinet is President of Cergy-Pontoise University