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Scientific challenges

Interview with Grégoire Allaire, Chairman of IFPEN’s Scientific Board

Grégoire Allaire,
Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Ecole Polytechnique,
was appointed Chairman of IFPEN’s Scientific Board in May 2016.

 
He describes his vision of fundamental research at IFPEN and the role of the Scientific Board.

 

  • How did you come to be appointed Chairman of IFPEN's Scientific Board?

Grégoire Allaire : In addition to my academic experience, I have a thorough understanding of applied research, having worked for the CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) for nearly ten years. My research themes have always been similar to IFPEN's: scientific computation, multi-scale modeling and the optimization of mechanical structures have been some of the areas I've focused on. In particular, I've done a lot of work on multi-phase flow models as well as transport in porous media. These overlapping research themes led me to collaborate with IFPEN's Scientific Board, initially as an associate expert a few years ago, and subsequently, from 2014, as a member. I was both surprised and honored to be chosen as Chairman of the Scientific Board following the departure of Sébastien Candel, whose work and commitment I salute. 

 

  • How do you see IFPEN?

G. A. : The first word that springs to mind is originality. As a research center, IFPEN is atypical in terms of its public-private funding mechanism. The degree of industrial transfer of the technologies developed by its researchers is quite exceptional. The other remarkable aspect is IFPEN's sustained scientific excellence. With a third of all research and innovation activities dedicated to fundamental research, IFPEN has struck the right balance. The role of the Scientific Board is to ensure this balance is maintained, while helping IFPEN to determine where to focus its efforts and which resources to mobilize. I believe this is essential to pave the way for the future, the energies and transport of tomorrow.

IFPEN's other distinctive characteristic from my point of view is its multidisciplinarity. Throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with chemists, physicists and mechanical engineers. At IFPEN, I'm discovering new fields and new and exciting scientific challenges that are often cross-functional in nature. Its multidisciplinary approach to research projects is one of IFPEN's strengths.

  

  • In your opinion, what is the contribution of IFPEN's Scientific Board?

G. A. : The Scientific Board exists to provide an outside view, academic insight and to ensure the quality of the scientific strategy. IFPEN has structured its fundamental research around major cross-cutting "scientific challenges". One of the board's missions is to support IFPEN in this approach, which provides greater transparency vis-à-vis the outside. IFPEN cannot possibly find solutions to the nine challenges identified by itself. Let's take the "optimum processing of large volumes of experimentation and simulation data" challenge. This is a topical theme requiring significant resources and joining forces with outside partners is absolutely crucial. The role of the Scientific Board is to help IFPEN identify and make contact with potential external partners to overcome challenges, be they universities or research centers such as Inria (French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation), the CEA or the CNRS.

I also believe it is important for IFPEN to encourage its researchers to publish in the leading scientific journals or enable them to hold national accreditation to supervise research (HDR). These essential aspects for any research center are amongst my priorities.

Lastly, the scientific board is responsible for the process governing the selection of theses and their mid-term evaluation. In my view, this is a vital role and one the board takes very seriously. On this subject, I must say that I've been particularly impressed by the outstanding quality of the research conducted by the winner of the 2016 Yves Chauvin thesis prize, Kim Larmier. Here we have a young researcher whose degree of scientific maturity and CV are quite remarkable for his age. It reflects IFPEN's capacity to supervise excellent theses and attract the best PhD students. IFPEN is a fine center and we should be proud of it!

 

+ To find out more about Grégoire Allaire, consult his personal page

> Scientific Board

Scientific challenges


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Key figure:

25

That's the number of experts and expert directors at IFPEN contributing to the "scientific challenges" initiative.