By signing 25 agreements with laboratories or innovative companies as part of the "R&D job preservation" measure of the France Relance recovery plan, IMT Atlantique has obtained the creation of 29 scientific jobs over one or two years. This is an opportunity to forge even closer ties with the industrialists and laboratories in its "ecosystem".
Contributing to the development of the region is one of the ambitions of IMT Atlantique. This ambition figures prominently in the institution's strategic plan and is reflected in a series of initiatives including partnerships with companies and local authorities, close links with the region's universities and schools, industrial platforms, incubators to welcome creators from various backgrounds, etc.
IMT Atlantique's firm commitment to the France Relance plan clearly confirms this orientation. Launched at the end of 2020, this plan aims to support employment in R&D. It provides that, within the framework of an agreement between a company and a non-profit research structure (public laboratory, university or school), the state will cover most of the remuneration of certain personnel. An employee of a company can thus be placed at the disposal of a public laboratory for one or two years, or do a thesis there. Conversely, a young graduate with five years of higher education or a young doctor can be recruited by a laboratory or school to work on a scientific project within the company.
"This initiative is part of the European recovery plan decided after Covid," says Frédéric Pallu, who is in charge of economic development and development at IMT Atlantique. "It stems from two observations: first, the pandemic and the t lockdowns had a deleterious effect on employment, with R&D being among the most threatened. In addition, young graduates and researchers are among the most exposed. Hence the idea of bringing together public research organizations and companies - SMEs and ETIs, in particular - in order to preserve these jobs in particular."
Priority to IMT Atlantique's partners
The scheme is funded by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (Mesri) and operated by the National Research Agency (ANR). For young master's degree holders, approximately 80% of the gross salary is covered, with only the remainder paid by the companies. For more experienced profiles, the amount of aid is capped at 65,000 euros. IMT Atlantique and its partners pay the administrative and management costs.
When the Ministry launched a "call to manifest interest" (AMI), unlike other institutions, IMT Atlantique opted for a detailed network involving a large number of companies. "We chose to give priority to our partners," says Frédéric Pallu, "young companies incubated at IMT Atlantique or coming out of our incubators, as well as companies with whom we have built up relationships of trust - for example, those who fund our research chairs or use our industrial platforms." Some 50 industrial partners were thus proposed by the institution.
The examination of the dossiers began in spring 2021 with the participation of various players including the Regional Academic Delegation for Research and Innovation (Drari). It took some time to draw up an agreement with the company for each candidate, to write a draft agreement, and to submit the dossier to the Drari... about four months for each agreement.
"One of the difficulties was to identify candidates for a fixed-term contract (CDD), and also to avoid losing them along the way," says Frédéric Pallu. "Because some profiles - computer scientists, for example - are in high demand from recruiters, and their situation changes very quickly. And we wanted to retain good candidates". Another delicate point is that of intellectual property. "As this is public funding, we must avoid any distortion of competition. The property rights therefore belong to IMT Atlantique."
Backing for SMEs and start-ups
In the end, IMT Atlantique succeeded in having 25 agreements validated for 23 companies - that is, nine placements with a company, 10 recruitments of young Master's degree holders and 10 "post-docs". The agreements were spread across the institution's three campuses - Nantes, Rennes and Brest - and covered a wide range of topics: electronics and microwaves, nuclear energy, radiopharmaceuticals, energy (hydrogen), data security, etc. IMT Atlantique is one of the most involved players in the scheme.
Among the beneficiaries of the program are the Arago platform, dedicated to intelligent materials and technologies for the industry of the future, and the start-up Ai4R, which is developing an innovative autoradiography imaging process in conjunction with the SUBATECH laboratory. Other examples include the Kimi project, a software platform for distance learning in gastroenterology based on endoscopic images, and the Océanix chair (research cluster), which uses AI to study ocean dynamics (currents, pollution, ship routing, etc.) and works with CLS and Ocean Datalab.
France Relance will have created 29 jobs at IMT Atlantique or in its environment for a total funding of 3.27 million euros. This is the equivalent of 49 man-years of scientific collaboration. A dozen start-ups incubated at the institution have thus benefited.
"It's a fairly heavy operation, but one that offers strong added value for IMT Atlantique," says Frédéric Pallu. "It highlights IMT Atlantique's real expertise, both in putting together complex projects and in partnering with local companies. We strengthen the technological expertise of SMEs and start-ups by bringing them closer to research laboratories. For their part, the young people recruited through this program complete their scientific training and become familiar with the business world. As for IMT Atlantique, it builds trust with its ecosystem. It's a win-win situation. In the long term, I'm convinced that this collaboration between innovation players will bear fruit - whether it's for hosting interns, recruiting our graduates or setting up other research partnerships. It's a very promising investment."
by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT