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Innovation at BRGM

Generating value from research is central to BRGM strategy

Header introduction
In line with BRGM policy decisions taken three years ago, 2019 saw determined efforts to foster innovation supported by practical activities in emerging scientific fields with high economic potential. Twenty robust projects have already been set up.
Signing the equity investment in Soltracing, which uses a BRGM methodology for excavated earth. © BRGM

Generating value from innovation is a major focus of BRGM strategy, together with research and expertise. Applied research has always been in our organisation’s DNA, but today, thanks to an annual budget of €500,000 for a programme launched three years ago which became fully operational in 2019, the aim is to direct a significant part of our research towards applications with promising economic potential, while continuing to develop operating procedures ensuring that a return on investments is a key objective in research projects. To support this approach, a new process has been introduced to foster value-added innovation.

A new project-maturing process

Developed by BRGM’s Development Division, this is a formal and rigorous maturing process for projects geared to generating economic value. The aim is to set out a roadmap for all applied research projects in order to evaluate their economic potential from the outset, then to format them to achieve a successful outcome in the form of a patent, an internal start-up, an external spin-off or further development in partnership with an industrial stakeholder. This maturation process selects "nugget" projects and instils an entrepreneurial approach in all the others to optimise their development.

Researchers therefore also need to become ‘in-house entrepreneurs’... They need to develop an awareness of potential for innovation, a better understanding of the market before launching a project and the ability to differentiate their projects for market positioning. A specific methodology has been established for this purpose, which first defines the proposed value of the solution before determining the business model and finally setting out a business plan. The whole process is supervised by the Executive Board with support from the Development Division.

Suricate-Nat uses the highly responsive social network, Twitter. Its algorithm assesses tweets to ascertain the magnitude and location of a natural hazard. © BRGM

This approach is designed to strengthen BRGM’s image as a leading player in innovation and value creation and now applies to all the objectives of its new scientific strategy. It has led to 20 new projects, including SEMS (a geophysical method for airborne electromagnetic measurements), CARGO, SURICATE Nat, MétéEAU Nappes or Soltracing (see box), which applies a BRGM methodology for tracing excavated earth.

It has also given rise to several initiatives including an innovation competition, a course, already taken by twenty researchers, to raise awareness of innovation potential for business-oriented projects (What is innovation? How to move from research to value-added applications?) and training for scientific programme directors, run by the University of Paris-Dauphine.

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Soltracing: a pioneering service for the traceability of excavated earth

Through its subsidiary, SAGEOS, BRGM has taken a 40% stake in Soltracing, a solution entirely developed in France to ensure the safety of excavated earth flows. The result is a new digital traceability service to check the acceptability of excavated earth from reclamation operations and validate compliance with standards for site evacuations. This reduces the risk of pollution from reusing excavated earth.

Researchers also need to become in-house entrepreneurs... an approach designed to strengthen BRGM’s image as a leading player in innovation and value creation.
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Manager in charge of Innovation