Only a few months after launching of the “France Relance plan”, the CNRS signed the first cooperation agreements with companies in order to preserve research jobs.
"Due to the pandemic, we could have decided to put our project on hold" says Patrick Piot, General Director of the green chemistry company Demeta which, following the recruitment of a young researcher, has just benefited, thanks to the CNRS, of the France Relance disposal. Announced on September 3, 2020 by the French government to protect the country from the economic and social consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, France Relance aims to preserve private R&D jobs and promote the integration of young doctors and graduates by welcoming them into public laboratories. The CNRS, like most research organizations and establishments, is committed to this measure, with a total budget of 300 million euros.
The CNRS benefits from 41 million euros, received under an agreement signed on May 2021 with the National Research Agency, to create or preserve some 270 jobs. And in just two months, a hundred companies have already approached the CNRS to find the best ways to benefit from it.
" At the end of May, we organized a webinar to present this plan, with some fifty companies attending — large groups, PMEs, start-ups — , thereby evidencing the great interest in this measure", underlines Jean-Luc Moullet, CNRS innovation general executive manager. And the partnerships and development services of the CNRS 18 regional delegations are also mobilized to present and support this plan.
Mapping the laboratories
“The cooperation projects of the France Relance plan arise from different channels: first through the CNRS general executive direction for innovation via actions towards companies during discussions on partnership agreements, but also through the 10 CNRS institutes”, explains Julia Fargeot, partnership and development manager (RSPV) of the Provence and Corse delegation of the CNRS - which currently has around fifteen projects under the France Relance plan. “We are also making direct contact with the directors of our more than one thousand laboratories to explore the modalities of this system." The objective is to map and identify research laboratories with historical or structuring partnerships for which the system offers prospects. "We also offer projects with new companies depending on the opportunities", adds Emmanuelle Malésys, RSPV of the Bretagne and Pays de la Loire delegation of the CNRS - which currently has ten projects in preparation. "We have a very tight schedule as the envelope allocated by the ANR must be spent by the end of the year," she said.
"Develop products with expert researchers"
Two types of actions within the framework of the France Relance plan are proposed: welcoming engineers and researchers from companies in a public laboratory over a given period, or recruiting young graduates on fixed-term contracts, part of which takes place within of the partner company.
"The first cooperation projects have already been signed or are about to be signed and a hundred of other cooperation projects are under preparation" indicates Jean Luc Moullet. For the CNRS, this cooperation is very interesting because it is part of one of the CNRS strategic orientations, which consists of strengthening the relationship with companies, and providing them with new expertise in their field.
Fair intellectual property
Among the two cooperation contracts under the France Relance plan that have just been signed; the first is the OMCFLOW chemistry project, which brings together the Demeta company headed by Patrick Piot and the Rennes Institute of Chemical Sciences. For this project, the CNRS recruits a young researcher and finances 80% of his salary, the company will cover the rest.
The OMCFLOW project has been finalized in a few weeks thanks to the well-defined France Relance plan. “Regarding mobility, the time spent in the laboratory and in the company is planned in advance. Regarding intellectual property, it is meant to be fair for all contributions from all the participants, in relation to the time spent between the laboratory and the company, the provision of equipment or even the intellectual and financial contribution from each one”, explains Emmanuelle Malésys, who managed the signing of the cooperation contract for the OMCFLOW project.
Participate in the life of the laboratory and discover the industry
The OMCFLOW project, which wants to create a more eco-efficient production of odorous molecules for perfumery and cosmetics, will welcome from September 1 a young researcher in organic chemistry for a fixed-term contract of 24 months with the objective to be employed by the Demeta company. "This researcher will spend 50% of his/her time within the company and the other half in the laboratory," explains Marc Mauduit, research director at the Rennes Institute of Chemical Sciences and scientific director of OMCFLOW. A cooperation that is part of a long-standing framework agreement: the main catalysts targeted in the project, for which Demeta has an exclusive and worldwide operating license, were invented in 2012 by Marc Mauduit's team. “In the laboratory, the researcher will perform the technological development. In the company, he/she will be able to target and produce odorous molecules according to strong market demands” he adds. A rich time schedule for the young researcher who will take part in the research laboratory while learning his skills in industry.
Such a collaboration which, without the support of the France Relance plan, could have been put aside for a lack of funding. This device also supports the research-industry relationship. “For a laboratory, this collaboration is very important. When we work in fundamental research, industrial partners allow us to become aware of their specifications and to try to adapt to their applications" concludes Marc Mauduit. A wealth to be further developed.
Marc Mauduit, Univ Rennes, CNRS, ENSCR, ISCR - UMR 6226, F-35000 Rennes, France
marc [dot] mauduitensc-rennes [dot] fr
Published July 13, 2021