IDEX Paris-Saclay: questions to Bertrand Braunschweig
The international IDEX panel met from 25 to 29 April 2016 to evaluate the eight IDEXes selected in 2011/2012 for the first "Investments for the Future" programme (PIA1). At the end of its evaluation, the Paris-Saclay Idex had its probationary period renewed for 18 months. Bertrand Braunschweig, Head of the Inria Saclay – Île-de-France Research Centre, explains the institute's positioning to us.
According to the Ministry and the CGI (General Investment Commission), renewal of the probationary period is intended to encourage IDEX teams whose creations are still too limited and/or whose transformations have been deemed too slow or insufficiently structuring for the future. The panel chose this solution when it considered that an IDEX could potentially succeed, despite these insufficiencies, in "converting the try". This potential capability justifies keeping the label for a new probationary period.
"We presented an integrated university plan in 2012, and we clearly haven't had enough time to implement it sufficiently," admits Gilles Bloch, President of the University of Paris-Saclay. "We need to keep mobilising ourselves in order to succeed," he adds.
Questions to Bertrand Braunschweig, Head of Inria Saclay – Île-de-France research centre:
Why this probationary period?
The Paris-Saclay Idex has not yet satisfied the criteria to be confirmed, unlike the Bordeaux, Marseille, and Strasbourg Idexes. The panel awarded the lowest grade to the "Target University" and "Human Resources Policy" criteria, and average grades for five of the other nine criteria. We only received an A grade for scientific excellence and innovation. In view of that, an 18-month extension of the probationary period is a good compromise. But we need to be aware that if our work is not satisfactory at the end of this probationary period, particularly with regard to these elements, the project will be halted.
What is at stake for the centre in this report?
Inria's strategy is to participate fully in the grouping of establishments in the territories where we have a significant presence and where digital technology is a priority. This obviously applies to Saclay. That is why we stand by the local establishments with which we have partnerships: Université Paris-Sud, Ecole Polytechnique, ENS Cachan, Centrale Supélec, ENSTA Paristech, CEA, and Université de Versailles, which are all members of the University Paris-Saclay ComUE. The same applies to our partners which are national bodies, starting with the CNRS. The international visibility of the Saclay cluster must be supported by the awarding of this mark of excellence, which carries significant funding for inter-facility actions relating to higher education, research, and support to innovation. We are therefore participating wholeheartedly in this initiative. However, unlike the local establishments, Inria is a national institute whose future does not depend on just one facility, even such a major one as ours. We have no need to fear for our future.
What actions can Inria conduct during this probationary period to contribute to "converting the try" for the University of Paris-Saclay?
Continue to develop our partnership policy with the establishments on the Saclay plateau, through our organisation in joint project teams, and continue to bring the added value of an institute devoted to computing in the context of multidisciplinary projects with researchers and lecturers with complementary skills to ours. This is what we did, for example, in the I2-DRIVE convergence institute proposal for a multi-disciplinary computer science institute led by the University of Paris-Saclay and directed by Nozha Boujemaa. If it is selected by the ANR panel, this institute will be an important asset to Idex, demonstrating the ability of the participants to collaborate on societal issues of worldwide scope. Moreover, we will obviously continue our involvement in the discussions being conducted by the leaders of the University of Paris-Saclay in its various committees in order to reach a common vision of the target university required by the Idex jury.
Are you confident about the result of the upcoming evaluation?
Yes, because frankly the wealth of the Saclay Plateau, in terms of both research and higher education, is indisputable. The panel even called it "superb". It would be astounding, not to mention catastrophic, for our country if that did not result in pursuing the Excellence Initiative. On the other hand, this could be done over a limited scope if certain establishments did not want to be directly associated, which the panel also envisaged. For Inria, once again there is no risk, and so we will join the project, there is no doubt about it.
The evaluation in April took place at the end of the probationary period, which gave the higher education and research establishments leading the Excellence Initiatives the time and the ability to prove the credibility of their project and the achievement of their goal: to constitute a truly global research university with first-rate scientific impact and power over an extensive range of subject areas.