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Scientific strategy

Establishing a continuum between research, industry and expertise

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Responding more effectively to socio-economic challenges involving the surface and subsurface while ensuring better continuity between research, expertise and innovation among public authorities and businesses: these are the main challenges that BRGM has set for itself with its new scientific strategy, deployed as of 2019.
Collapse of the Erretegia beach cliff at Bidart, near Biarritz in SW France (photo taken by a drone). © Observatoire de la Côte Aquitaine / Com’ by AVM

BRGM’s new scientific strategy, with its six key objectives, aims to ensure both visibility and a clear understanding of its geoscience research activities. It is organised into key fields of application and cross-cutting missions.

Our cross-cutting missions

Our main objective as a national geological survey organisation is to acquire geological information. This information needs to be constantly updated to keep pace with new observations and improvements in technologies and scientific concepts.

Managing and processing surface and subsurface data have become a key issue for any geological survey organisation. Because most BRGM data are acquired with public funding, it is essential to disseminate them more widely, in accordance with open science policies in France and Europe.

Our main fields of application

In addition to these cross-cutting missions, BRGM’s activities are mainly focused on four main fields of application:

  • Regional risks and spatial planning require the management of natural risks and regional vulnerabilities as well as monitoring and assessing risks arising from former industrial and mining activities, with a view to contributing to sustainable and optimised regional development.
  • Groundwater management is becoming a crucial issue because water tables are increasingly subject to the twin pressures of abstraction for human consumption and climate change, which is significantly disrupting recharge parameters. Increasingly efficient monitoring tools are needed to predict changing qualitative and quantitative trends in water resources.
  • The circular economy is steadily becoming established in France and Europe. BRGM is one of the few institutions capable of covering the entire field of research and innovation concerning the availability of primary mineral resources in relation to their life cycle.
  • Finally, the energy transition is set to profoundly change our energy systems with more decentralised modes of production, in which the subsurface can become a significant component. In this context, the development of geothermal energy and underground storage of energy or CO2 are technologies with high economic and innovation potential.

This new scientific strategy is organised into eight programmes. Above all, it is firmly anchored in close relationships between research, industry and expertise for the public sphere. This is because the subsurface and its resources demand a framework in which public policies often provide the stimulus for innovation and a better understanding of the natural processes affecting the surface and subsurface. The combination of research, industry and expertise offers fertile ground for innovation within a new creative ecosystem.

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A new dynamic for research under contract

In 2019, BRGM achieved a record level of research under contract for companies (around €4 million) and local authorities (nearly €7 million). In response to current industrial and economic issues, BRGM is contributing to innovative solutions focusing on key socio-economic issues, such as the circular economy, subsurface potential to support the energy transition, the impacts of global change and ways of adapting to them. The number of companies calling on BRGM’s services reached over 100, an increase of more than 50% since 2016.
Developments relating to our public service missions are also of great interest to the industrial world and hold real potential for innovation and development. As an example, BRGM set up an innovative digital service called HIGHTEX, through its work for the Ministry of Ecological Transition (MTE) on the reclamation of excavated land. This service is provided by the «Soltracing» startup, in which BRGM is a co-shareholder with the Hesus group.
Other projects are moving in the same direction, such as the registration of the ImmoTerre trademark with Bouygues, or the creation of a paid service for predicting the level of groundwater tables based on data from MétéEauNappe. More broadly,feedback from research under contract is providing the MTE with the benefit of experience on the operational implementation of its environmental policy doctrine. For example, the results of the VALTEX project, conducted with Suez to develop a prototype platform for managing excavated earth, have been included in the revised edition of the methodological guide for such managment. All these results reflect and give credence to the BRGM’s image as a partner for business innovation.

Applying our research to develop expertise and innovations for the public authorities and businesses.
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Director, Strategy and Research
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Director, Development