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Chap. 6

A new era


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INSA Lyon embarked on a new era and had to find its next ‘helmsman’ for the coming five years. 2010 was drawing to a close and the position of director would soon be vacant. Who would take over from Alain Storck, after 10 glorious years of communication which cost the establishment its financial health? I was on a plane journey when I came across an advert in Le Monde newspaper outlining a call for applications for the post of INSA Lyon director recalls Eric Maurincomme. I had spent almost 17 years working in the private sector and I was on the lookout for a new challenge, so I seized this opportunity ! 

Destiny - INSA 5717
                        Eric Maurincomme ©INSALyon

This specialist in medical imagery, in charge of research and development in the healthcare industry, knew the school well given that he graduated from its very own Electrical Engineering department (Telecommunications option) in 1988. He went on to do a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of California before returning to INSA Lyon to pursue doctoral studies specializing in biological and medical engineering. 20 years later, after having lived and worked in six countries spanning three continents, Eric Maurincomme came back to the campus of INSA Lyon once again (which he dreamt of managing when he was a student). He discovered a brilliant institute with a great reputation, but in an extremely fragile financial state. 

We had to adopt a stringent management approach right away to restore a budgetary balance states Eric Maurincomme. Several measures were taken to replenish the negative working capital. The first part of my term was devoted to consolidating the school’s finances so that we could contemplate its future calmly ”, adds the new director.

Jean-Marc Dolais, who took on the post of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) just three months after Eric Maurincomme’s arrival, also recalls this period:We were playing it by ear, with hardly any documents available. We were financially independent but under the supervision of the education authority. I remember the day when we were in Eric’s office with the accounting officer and we discovered that three months’ rent for the residence halls was missing in the 2011 expenditure budget and that we owed this amount to the social housing authorities who owned the halls. We were distraught... 

After managing to get hold of the management reports, Jean-Marc Dolais instigated his search for revenue, well aware of the negative role that he was going to have to play. I accepted to play the ‘bad guy’. It was a bitter pill to swallow for everyone, and I don’t think Eric was aware of the state of the school’s finances when he arrived. We prepared the 2012 budget by reducing operating funds by 20% and dividing investment by three explains the then CFO..

The management team managed to rebalance the accounts. INSA Lyon was already on the top step of the podium, having been awarded the title ‘Best post-baccalaureate engineering school in France’ (ranking published by L’Express-L’Etudiant). During its voyage, the remarkable INSA ‘ship’ had garnered great acclaim. Eric Maurincomme wished to retain the fundamental principles and saw incredible development potential in this institute. My wish, right from the outset, was to increase the attractiveness of the school’s training and research aspects on a European and international scale and strengthen our ties with industrial and economic players. But above all, I want to maintain the level of excellence of this unique training model, created in 1957 to train engineers who not only boast excellent scientific skills, but above all, who are aware of their impact on the world around them: civic-minded engineers specifies Eric Maurincomme.

Diversity, equality and humanism are at the heart of his message. The figures speak for themselves: INSA Lyon has 30% scholarship students, 30% international students and 33% female students. Its ambition is to achieve equality among its engineering students. INSA Lyon is becoming increasingly attractive to young high-school leavers: in 2014, around 15,000 high-school pupils applied to the INSA Group for 2,000 places.
Technologies evolve fast, as do teaching methods. INSA Lyon is more than capable of calling its educational policy into question. This brought about the creation of an educational innovation group in the first cycle before an education reform was implemented. Multidisciplinary courses were devised, offering an introduction to engineering so that second-year students could experience a taste of specialist areas before choosing their department. 
The study regulations were also revised in terms of the skills expected of future INSA Lyon engineers, who must be prepared for working abroad as part of their training program. INSA Lyon candidates were also given the chance to choose their apprenticeship route according to their specialist area, as three further apprenticeship sections were created in addition to the first one (Mechanical Engineering Plastics Processes) launched in 2009 in Oyonnax.

The world is changing rapidly and our training programs must be brought in line with the new students we are recruiting. The engineers of the future need to know how to work in an international environment, understand the people they are dealing with and, where possible, speak their language, grasp their culture and anticipate the way they think. INSA Lyon has the tremendous asset of being at the crossroads of continents and of immersing its students in a multicultural environment from the moment they arrive. With a view to preserving this asset and continuing to develop it, our Diversity and Success Centre has been transformed into the Gaston Berger Institute. This is because we look towards the future and already contemplate today what tomorrow’s engineers should be like emphasizes Eric Maurincomme.

The business world is involved in this brainstorming process, given that it is the main beneficiary of an engineering profile tailored to its needs. 15 business sponsors have renewed their trust in the INSA Lyon Foundation for a second term, but this time for an undetermined period. Their pledge has been defined, new teaching and research chairs launched and agreements consolidated. Training and research paths are converging.

INSA Lyon is now a major research center with its 23 laboratories, including two International Mixed Units (LN2 in Sherbrooke, Canada and ELyTMax in Tohoku, Japan). On the European research scene, it is viewed as an establishment which combines the highest levels of research excellence and close ties with the industrial sector. To better contribute to the sustainable and responsible development that we strive to achieve and to deal with the major challenges of society, we have taken a close look at the challenges facing society. Research at INSA Lyon is currently divided into five areas: Information and digital society; Environment: natural, industrial & urban environments; Energy for sustainable development; Transport: structures, infrastructures & mobility and General health & bioengineering points out Jean-François Gérard, Research Director appointed in 2011 and brainchild of this major implementation.

The researchers of INSA Lyon’s various laboratories meet together, their works are intertwined or complement each other, and thanks to this interaction, some new research emerges. Various industrial multidisciplinary chairs have been created with major firms, such as Michelin, Volvo and Safran, and in addition to their benefit for research, they also contribute to the engineering students’ training.

In this context, INSAVALOR has really come into its own. Over the years and by listening to researchers, INSAVALOR has developed a broad range of services to support its teacher-researchers and to foster INSA Lyon’s relations with the socio-economic world. Whereas in 1988, this technologies transfer and valorization subsidiary was seen as an oddity, it has since become a model to be copied! announces Nicolas Penet, INSAVALOR Director. 

Tailored to the context of its time, where research is only launched during calls for projects as part of national and international competitions, INSAVALOR allows researchers to be more responsive by supporting them and even freeing them from all of the administrative and financial aspects. For industrial partners, INSAVALOR is a responsive gateway to research, because it masters the technical ins and outs of the expertise developed at INSA Lyon specifies Nicolas Penet. It even goes as far as supporting them in their business development initiatives, because in 2012 the Pertinence Invest investment fund was set up, dedicated to the founding of start-ups specializing in the valorization of technological research. 

INSA Lyon’s appeal is growing steadily and new talents are graduating from the school each year. ‘Engineers with a difference’ is the establishment’s current slogan, true to the spirit propagated by Gaston Berger and Jean Capelle 60 years ago. But in what way are INSA engineers different ? As a result of its training model that we hold dear and that we wish to see evolve without losing the fundamental principles. INSA’s values must remain intact and open up to other disciplines in a world where globalization is changing people, the future of professions and training itself. The INSA model could extend to the academic fields of architecture, design and management, to combine engineering with new skills, outlines Eric Maurincomme, reappointed as Director of INSA Lyon in July 2016. He is greatly inspired by world-class technology universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Politecnico de Turino in Italy and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. And it’s not over yet. INSA has a great future ahead of it and the 2017 INSA team is determined to do its utmost to achieve this. How do you see our fantastic INSA school in 60 years from now? The question may catch you a bit off guard, but maybe you will be able to envisage an idea of it after having experienced the year 5717 with us. Because we have to understand the past to imagine the future. And that’s what we suggest you do with our anniversary concept, 5717, to which we have dedicated a whole series of events. Eric Maurincomme, speaking at the 5717 launch evening on December 8, 2016.


Further details

Creation of the clubs and societies (VA) card at the Student Union (SU)

Destiny - INSA 5717
     The Student Union team in 2012 ©INSALyon

« In May 2012, a new President of the Republic, François Hollande, was elected. As part of his electoral promises, he mentioned bringing school fees into line with a scale prescribed by the Ministry. At the same time, my team was elected to run the Student Union (BdE) of INSA Lyon. The Ministry soon requested all regional education authorities to scrap the extra school fees deemed unfair by the National Union of Students of France (UNEF). At INSA, these fees amounted to around 200 euros and were used to ensure that the sickbay and in particular the clubs and societies ran smoothly. INSA Lyon lost around EUR 1.6 million as a result, and the Student Union fell short of EUR 150,000. I heard the news from Bastien Penard (President of the Student Union) during the summer vacation. I therefore left my job early to return to campus, because we had to understand the impact of this change and decide on a transition plan. This was extremely tricky given that we had only just been elected. We focused on a new business model, helped by former students. One of our concerns was knowing how much we would get back, and above all, how we would find a lasting solution for the following terms. After brainstorming the matter, we came up with the idea of a clubs and societies (VA) card, which would enable students to sign up to any clubs and societies on campus and benefit from special prices all year round. The challenge was to attract as many people as possible to reach the threshold needed to ensure the success of the model. All clubs and societies were affected by the change. Our objective was to maintain the broad range of clubs and societies, as this was unique for a French engineering school. In the end, we collected EUR 121,000 out of the missing EUR 150,000 and made budgetary cuts to make up for the remaining shortfall. The VA card system is still in place today and INSA Lyon’s Student Union remains one of the most active student associations in France. This was a wonderful first experience as coordinator of the association.»
Clément Baudy, GMC engineer, INSA Lyon 2014.

2014: A new visual identity for INSA

In September 2014, the INSA Lyon logo was given a makeover after 20 years of dedicated and loyal service. The former blue logo with its rounded shapes gave way to a brand new red logo with straight lines. The geometry was simplified to make it stronger and more modern. Why was the logo changed ?

« To be honest, it wasn’t really anything new. We were naturally moving towards a common identity around the umbrella brand of the INSA Group. This identity helps us to promote the values of the Group and the schools via unified and meaningful communication. In September 2014, all INSA schools changed their logo at the same time for greater visibility and impact. Because our sights are firmly set on the future and we hope that our model, our vision of tomorrow’s engineer will become ever more firmly established, not only on our territory but also beyond our borders. » 
Eric Maurincomme


Creating the 1st INSA international

In February 2015, the Moroccan National Commission for Higher Education and Coordination (CNCES) accredited the three engineering sections of INSA Euro-Méditerranée and its integrated first cycle: Mechanical and energy engineering, Electrical engineering and IT & communication system.

In other words, the Moroccan Government, via its Minister for Higher Education, Research and Executive Training, Lahcen Daoudi, recognized the engineering degree which will be awarded by INSA Euro-Méditerranée, the first international institute of the INSA Group. The next stage was to seek the recognition on the French side from the French committee for engineering qualifications (CTI), which was due to carry out its audit during the summer. This was a major milestone for the INSA Group, which had been working for many years to develop its model internationally. INSA Euro-Méditerranée is currently being integrated into the heart of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes (UEMF).

« The INSA model is taking on an extra dimension by expanding into Morocco, because we are taking account of its geographical position and the crossroads between two cultures. « Euro-Méditerranée  » will be part of the humanities teachings that INSA holds dear and offered to all of its engineering students who, just like their fellow students in France, will follow a five-year training program » , specifies Eric Maurincomme, President of the INSA Group.

Morocco is a symbolic choice for the location of the first INSA outside of France. First of all, because the connections forged between INSA and Morocco are strong and go back a long way. Every year, Moroccan students make up the largest or second-largest group of foreign students within the INSA schools. Secondly, because several hundred INSA graduates, whether engineers or doctors, currently play an extremely active role in the Moroccan economy.

From the outset, the plans to create INSA Euro-Méditerranée in Fes were supported at the highest political level, in particular by the French and Moroccan Higher Education Ministers. This project was the fruit of the permanent cross-reflection between the two countries and was subsequently extended to other countries in the Mediterranean region. The birth of this INSA involved a consortium comprising several universities in Morocco, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

2015: Creation of the Gaston Berger Institute