Example of a map showing the probability of gold deposits in Brittany, obtained with the DROP tool, which was awarded the BRGM innovation prize. © BRGM
Innovation at BRGM: a new approach geared to practical applications
meet the real needs of economic players directly. In 2021 it set up a team to determine the application potential of research programmes.
Applied research in the geosciences is one of BRGM's primary missions. Widespread awareness and a concerted effort for R&D are needed both for the institution as a whole and on an individual level for researchers and engineers so that everyone at BRGM is committed to innovation as an imperatively strategic objective. It is important to take this dimension into account from the outset of research work and to convince those who finance us that our research results are put to good use.
This is particularly true for the exploitation of the subsurface, in a context of increasing scarcity of raw material resources, in particular rare metals. We need to convince economic players that our solutions are feasible and that we can implement them.
Electronic and electrical waste – a "goldmine" for strategic mineral resources. © BRGM
We have to think in terms of technically and economically viable solutions.
In practical terms, this means supporting research programmes to assess their potential applications. The principle has already been adopted and incorporated in methods, and increasingly so in 2021. BRGM teams must think in terms of technically and economically viable solutions. An effort must be made to change our methodologies, with the teams having to adopt them to validate the application of their work.
This is mainly reflected in the increased practice of assessing applications and results at all stages of projects.
Researchers trained in assessment
BRGM’s is investing firmly in these new assessment practices. This year, forty researchers and engineers were trained in the methodology, which enabled them to acquire a very rewarding skill‑set.
Specifically, increased skills in innovation practices is achieved through courses designed to raise awareness of the innovation approach, with the Research Innovation Science & Technology (RIST) group, which is affiliated to the University of Paris Dauphine-PSL. But it also involves the acquisition of brainstorming methods, with the innovation consultancy Edwige, and the development of creative methodologies in a spirit of open innovation.
To sum up, BRGM is conducting an in-depth campaign of acculturation to innovation, in line with the challenges linked to the environment, climate change and the rational exploitation of subsurface resources. This enables us to be legitimately involved in innovative projects supported by Europe, such as those of the EIT Raw Materials, which is calling on BRGM to drive innovation in the responsible use of primary and secondary mineral resources.
As an illustration of this approach (see box), it is worth mentioning the BRGM innovation award, numerous projects in geophysics, the circular economy and risk management, among others.
BRGM innovation award
This year it was awarded to the DROP project, an original method for optimising map construction by means of artificial intelligence, which produces highly operational maps for identifying mineral resource deposits. Artificial Intelligence improves the analysis of surface and structural data, and enables better location and characterisation of substances. This will make it easier and cheaper to identify deposits, but also the sources of pollution and the perimeter of aquifers.
Innovative projects financed by the European Union
BRGM is a member of EIT Raw Materials, a European consortium supporting innovation to secure supplies of raw materials and their rational use. On the agenda are: the circular economy, field analysis of ground and subsurface constituents (SOLSA), citizen participation and improved knowledge transfer (Citizen Coop).
Development of data access platforms
Other projects include the development of data access platforms concerning risk (Vigirisks) and water; and projects in geophysics, on swelling clays or the injection of CO2 into the subsurface, and the development of new energy recovery methods (POWERROAD).