Aix-Marseille University innovates to attractive corporate administrative offices

Aix-Marseille University innovates to attractive corporate administrative offices
Romain Laffont, Vice-President of Aix-Marseille University (AMU) in charge of relations with companies and partnerships and Director of Polytech Marseille
17 June 2021 / invest in provence

Interview Aix-Marseille University - Three questions to Romain Laffont

For several years now, Aix-Marseille University has been working to strengthen its ties with the business world through the Department of Corporate Relations and Partnerships. By creating bridges between research, training and employment, Romain Laffont, Vice-President of Aix-Marseille University, is creating fertile ground for cross-pollination between the private and public spheres. Constantly seeking innovation and aware of the challenges of business transformation, he has been collaborating with Provence Promotion for several months to think strategically about the future of workplaces and attracting corporate offices to the region within the university itself. More details...

What is your partnership strategy with companies?

Our goal is to strengthen our positioning as a key player in the region and to open up the university more to the world of business and employment while helping drive the research agenda. It is also a matter of listening to the needs of companies in order to develop training courses. Our department's mission is to help companies innovate in order to become more competitive. Let's take the example of the SmartPort initiative, in which AMU is involved through the Cité de l'Innovation et des Savoirs Aix-Marseille (CISAM). Created to accompany the changes in the port's activity in terms of both energy and mobility, it is the result of a multi-partner project with the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis and the multinationals CMA CGM and L'Occitane. We share the same desire to develop scientific culture and innovation on the same site in the service of economic growth. It is not just about technology, but also about the humanities.

Within the framework of Provence Promotion's influence program, the university has begun to think strategically about developing third places. What does this process involve?

Our objectives converge. Provence Promotion aims to attract companies to Aix-Marseille and AMU aspires to host the most skilled researchers for our laboratories and develop the best possible training. We were able to draw foreign companies to our labs thanks to meetings and interactions. We also have a pool of multidisciplinary skills, which also makes the region attractive, with 80,000 students, including 22,500 graduates per year.

We are working with Provence Promotion on new third place locations that can accommodate the corporate functions of major French and foreign groups. As the owner of nearly 9 million ft2of real estate, the university believes that it makes sense to host these companies in locations to be defined, to create co-working spaces close to home to reduce commutes and to promote intermingling between the academic and economic worlds. We are in the phase of identifying campuses in the city and in the suburbs. We are considering duplicating the CISAM model to encourage meetings between the worlds of research and training. At the same time, our role is to support students, to help them with job placement and to turn them into entrepreneurs through our Pépite program. AMU-Business Week, the annual gathering of the region's socio-economic players, will be held on October 7, 2021, at the Parc Chanot.

What are your international connections?

Each year, AMU welcomes 10,000 foreign students and 110 nationalities of researchers to its campus. The European CIVIS program should accelerate this trend. An offshoot of the Erasmus+ call for projects, this program brings together nine European universities, of which AMU is the leader. Together, they are developing approaches specific to a given training/scientific issue: health, cities, regional mobility, climate, environment and energy, digital and technological transformations, society, cultures and heritage. Our role is to train young people and empower science to provide an answer to major societal challenges. We value a multidisciplinary approach to topics such as AI and biotech. And, since 2016, we have created 18 "Instituts d'Établissement" with the support of our schools and research centers at Aix-Marseille University.

Aix-Marseille University in figures

  • €3.7 billion, 42,000 jobs: Economic impact in PACA region
  • €750 million: AMU annual budget
  • 8,100 employees
  • 80,000 students / 22,500 graduates per year