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History of Inria

Alain Bensoussan: international development of the Institute

Portrait Alain Bensoussan © INRIA / Photo A.Eidelman

A graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and the ENSAE (École nationale de statistique et de l’administration économique), Alain Bensoussan was the first researcher recruited by IRIA in 1967, and simultaneously pursued a career in teaching.

A mathematician by training, his work focussed on control and applied mathematics. A close friend of Jacques-Louis Lions, he succeeded him at the head of Inria between 1984 and 1996. Recognised in the USA for his work at the University of Texas, he was able to use his international network of contacts to develop the scientific influence of the institute.

A few months after he was appointed, the Decree of 2 August 1985 transformed the institute into a public science and technology institution. It would now fall under the joint supervision of the Ministries of Industry and Research. Alain Bensoussan had to help the institute to achieve new aims: utilising its research, developing collaborations, conducting expert scientific appraisals, and contributing to standardisation. His time as director of the institute was also marked by a commitment to its regionalisation and the promotion of its European dimension (cooperation agreements with the CWI, in particular). Alain Bensoussan was the man behind the creation of the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM).

In 1995, he made Inria the European host of the activities of the W3C  (World Wide Web consortium), created a year earlier in the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science. In so doing, he reaffirmed the important role of Europe in the development of the Internet. The winner of many honours, including the Alexander Humboldt Prize in 1984, Alain Bensoussan was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences in November 2003.

Keywords: Mathematics ERCIM Control Applied Mathematics Jacques-Louis Lions Development International relations Research centre W3C