Patronage of scientific expertise at the service of society
Making it easier for people with disabilities to visit the new Cluny Museum, providing chronic pain sufferers with relief, managing contamination risks for serious burns victims at the Saint-Louis hospital and taking a different look at the cave paintings created 36,000 years ago in the Chauvet Cave: these four projects show just how diverse and specifically targeted the scientific skills sponsorship initiative is that the EDF Group Foundation founded and now manages. The projects include original scientific challenges that help civil society, drawing on the wide-ranging skills and expertise of EDF's research engineers.
Technological progress serving human progress
The EDF Group's scientific and technological skills sponsorship initiative is one of specific ways in which it shares its expertise. It is fully in line with the company's culture and its identity as both a scientific company involved in building major infrastructure and a company working in the public interest.
The EDF Group's scientific skills sponsorship initiative has long served our heritage, our knowledge and our understanding of the past, and has resulted in a number of remarkable achievements. It has developed in parallel to the company’s scientific and technical potential and as a response to the challenges currently facing society. The currently offered support in numerous areas, including heritage, healthcare, disability and environmental issues. These are all areas likely to benefit from the sharing of cutting-edge technologies and leading expertise from EDF Research & Development’s research engineers.
Indeed, one of the distinctive features of this type of sponsorship initiative is the scientific and human contribution that it makes – the results of EDF’s Group Foundation working closely alongside EDF’s R&D department. As a Foundation, our role involves identifying the scientific challenges that only R&D is able to take up – because of the specific nature of the expertise that we have developed to meet the Group's requirements. Each project involves a different area, requires original solutions and stimulates innovation. This juxtaposition results in fruitful discussions and in a hybridisation of knowledge. The challenges provide opportunities to test our technologies and further develop them.
For EDF employees who get involved in a particular project, the scientific skills sponsorship initiative is a source of personal pride for them, as well as being a way of showcasing the company's expertise. And by matching scientific challenges up with public interest projects, this form of sponsorship can help rehabilitate science – a vector for progress – when it is applied to healthcare and the environment, or used to facilitate access to culture.
The idea is to make research engineers available to work on public-interest projects.
EDF's R&D department works on projects for all of the Group's business lines. This has afforded us an extremely wide range of multidisciplinary skills across a vast number of areas, the likes of which you very rarely see in other organisations".
Jean-Paul Chabard, Scientific Director of EDF's R&D department
1. A different type of commitment
Through sponsorship initiatives, a company is free to contribute to public-interest causes. This can involve the provision of financial support, which is still how it works in most cases, but it can also involve the provision of other resources, such as the company’s products, its technology, its expertise and its employees.
Since 1983, the EDF Group has been engaged in this original form of sponsorship, using the scientific and technological expertise of its research engineers to help civil society.
For example, a technology developed for the company's industrial purposes by EDF's Research & Development department might be adapted at the request of a cultural institution or healthcare establishment, as part of a new project. The scientific and technological skills sponsorship initiative is a special type of commitment. It involves technologies, as well as people – R&D research engineers giving their time. In total, they give some 300 working days per year.
Developing models to form an understanding… to see that which cannot be seen by the naked eye, to anticipate risks, developing powerful algorithms to extract meaning from huge quantities of data… each project, according to representatives of the institutions concerned and the research engineers involved, is a rewarding adventure: each project involves being fully immersed in a completely new area, and involves tackling complex problems and drawing on multidisciplinary skills.
2. Sponsorship in line with the corporate culture
Using technological and economic progress to serve humanity's progress – that's what the EDF group is striving to do. Through its sponsorship initiative, the Foundation takes this commitment further, putting research engineers from EDF's R&D department in contact with people from civil society who find themselves up against specific challenges.
The scientific skills sponsorship initiative falls within the framework of a global sponsorship policy, defined by Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF's CEO and president of EDF Group Foundation: "My wish is for our Foundation, which is now the Group Foundation, to reflect the challenges facing our society, by choosing two areas in which to take action: inclusivity and progress. One is not possible without the other and both involve a form of progress that – in order to be truly sustainable – must have its roots in humanism. To deliver on this aim, I have decided that I want the Foundation's primary purpose to be to use innovation to serve social progress. I want that to be our signature... and I want that to be how we contribute to the public interest".
3. Scientific challenges requiring specific technologies and experience
Despite the apparently diverse nature of the areas in which we are involved (culture with the Cluny Museum and the Chauvet Cave, or healthcare with the ANALGESIA project and the serious burns unit), the projects that EDF Group Foundation supports all have things in common.
• investigates an original issue which requires – in order to be tackled – resources that the sponsored institutions do not have. These may be supercomputers, powerful simulation or assessment software in key R&D fields such as digital modelling and simulation, or artificial intelligence and systems for processing big data;
• involves different worlds coming together unexpectedly, resulting in very different areas and multidisciplinary knowledge intersecting;
• takes the people involved on long-term scientific and human adventures, because of the complexity of the specific challenges;
• leads to new questions being asked during discussions, and new and – at times unexpected – solutions being looked for;
• and because of their original nature and their general-interest scope, articles about the projects can sometimes be published on their completion.
4. The potential of EDF's Research & Development: Areas of expertise ranging from hard science to the human sciences
The EDF Group has state-of-the-art Research & Development facilities. Its research-engineers are engaged in furthering the knowledge and developing the technologies needed to design, build, operate, secure and maintain electricity generating infrastructure, as well as managing the electricity system as a whole. Its tools and expertise are put to use across EDF's industrial facilities (nuclear, wind power, photovoltaic, hydroelectric dams, etc.), but are also used to manage its business relations with its clients.
The technologies are constantly evolving, and have been marked by the significant development of digital technologies – in the broadest sense – over the last few decades (virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, etc.). Indeed, 17 people are currently engaged in research into virtual reality at EDF's R&D department. Data scientists are developing increasingly complex algorithms to process massive quantities of data – in particular, data gleaned from connected sensors for monitoring supply and demand in real time – as well as for optimising energy production and undertaking predictive analyses so as to anticipate needs.
Five noteworthy projects helped by EDF's scientific skills sponsorship initiative:
• 1987: restoration and preservation of objects salvaged from the Titanic using electrolyte processing
• 1995: treatment and duplication of the Copper Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls) using electroforming
• 1996: exploration of the Peking Man site using geological and geophysical surveying technologies
• 2005: air circulation analysis in the Lascaux caves using fluid physics
• 2006: recreation of the Dancers of Delphi column using 3D imagery
To find out more, download the press pack.
Resulting from a close collaboration between the EDF Group Foundation and R&D, the patronage of scientific skills serves projects of general interest.