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Researcher-entrepreneurs In France, existing ties between academia, fundamental research, and the industrial world were significantly bolstered by the Law of July 12, 1999. This “Innovation Law,” to which a number of additions were made over the years, allowed French universities and research institutes to set up technology transfer offices to facilitate exchanges with other institutions, and manage research contracts directly with private companies. For the first time also, public sector researchers and engineers could take a temporary leave (of up to six years) to develop and market applications of their research in the private sector—by founding or joining a company. They would then have to choose between reintegrating their institution or taking a permanent leave. A start-up boom And CNRS researchers did not sit idly by, as shown by a recently-published study4 detailing the intricate bonds between the organization and the private sector. With 4535 patent families (1438 active licenses), the CNRS is France’s 7th patent holder.5 It has allocated more than €3M via its investment subsidiary FIST SA6 to help young companies expand, and has contributed to the launch of 1026 start-ups since 1999, creating some 7000 jobs. “This is a pleasant surprise, as we tend to underestimate the role played by the CNRS in business creation,” says Philippe Baptiste, CNRS Chief Research Officer. “On average, 80 companies spring up each year from joint SCIENCE AT WORK SPECIAL FOCUS REPORT PROFILE LAB WATCH INNOVATION PORTFOLIO Technology transfer. New data on the number of CNRS-generated companies shows a narrowing gap between basic research and industry. BY SAMAN MUSACCHIO 1000 Start-Ups and Counting Good news all around for the CNRS. For the fourth consecutive year, the French organization was among Thomson Reuters’ top 100 Global Innovators,1 alongside industry leaders like GE (US), Roche (Switzerland), or Samsung Electronics (South Korea). Moreover, the number of scientific research institutions featured in the 2014 index increased from four to six (including three from France: the CNRS, CEA,2 and IFP3).For the study’s analysts, “this reflects the fact that innovation from the academic sector is on the rise, and underscores the importance of collaborative or open innovation, which is the partnering of the public and private sectors, corporate and academia, to innovate and bring new ideas to market.” And such interactions—structurally integrated at the CNRS for many years—are bearing fruit. Chemistry Materials Engineering Energy Transportation Other 5 % 1. http://top100innovators.com/pdf/Top-100-Global-Innovators-2014.pdf 2. Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives. 3. IFP Énergies nouvelles. 4. http://www2.cnrs.fr/sites/communique/fichier/dp_cnrs_liens_monde_ecov2.pdf 5. INPI, 2013. www.inpi.fr 6. Created in 1992, FIST SA is a subsidiary of the CNRS (70%) and Bpifrance (30%), a public investment bank. 7. Source: 2000, Ministère de l’écologie, du développement durable et de l’énergie. 8. Lumilog by Saint-Gobain, Varioptic by Parrot, Photline Technologies by iXBlue, and Sensitive Object by Tyco Electronics. 9. Innoveox, McPhy Energy, Supersonic Imagine, Quantum Genomics, Integragen, ImmuPharma, and Carbios. 10. Institut de chimie de la matière condensée de Bordeaux (CNRS). 11. Laboratoire ondes et acoustique, now Institut Langevin (CNRS / ES-PCI Paristech / UPMC / Université Paris Diderot / Inserm). 16 CNRS INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE McPhy Energy, a leader in solid hydrogen storage technology, was launched in 2008 following 8 years of research at the CNRS. Distribution of CNRS-associated companies by business sector Information and Communication Technology Biology Health 38 % 24 % 19 % 6 % 6 % NC 2 % Environment Agronomy © S. LANDEL


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