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MEDEF 2012

Corbel, P., Rapport sur l’étude "Les relations recherche publique – industrie : attentes, points de tension et convergences", rapport remis au MEDEF, février 2012, 59 p.


The topic of relations between public research laboratories and industry is attracting increasing attention. France stands out from other developed countries because of the high proportion of government funding for R&D (38% in 2005). Even if public funding exceeds the budget of public laboratories alone, the latter still represents a major investment for the public authorities. The State is therefore interested in the economic impact of this investment, and in particular in the way in which the knowledge thus created benefits French industry. From this point of view, the diagnoses made are often rather pessimistic (see for example the Guillaume report of 2007).
Faced with the fact that France is lagging behind in terms of technology transfer from public research, numerous measures have been taken since the 1990s: creation of research and technological innovation networks (RRIT) in 1998, the so-called "Allègre" law of 1999, the innovation plan of 2003, reform of the research tax credit in 2004, creation of competitiveness clusters ("pôles de compétitivité") in 2005, and more recently the creation of technology transfer acceleration companies (SATT) and technological research institutes (IRT). However, instituing such structures is not sufficient to establish relationships. The aim of this study, carried out at the request of MEDEF, is to deepen our knowledge of the relational aspects of the transformation of public research into innovation. The aim is not to measure the results, but to try to understand what drives companies to form partnerships with laboratories, how these partnerships are structured and how company managers perceive the expectations of the two types of partners.

The orientation of this study is based on two observations: - On the one hand, companies are more aware than ever of the need to cooperate with third parties in their R&D activities (as evidenced by the popularity of the open innovation concept proposed by Chesbrough, 2003). These partners include public research organisations, universities and engineering schools. - On the other hand, it is known that innovation partnerships are complex arrangements, potentially generating conflicts (Fréchet, 2004) and for which relationships of trust are both indispensable and difficult to establish (see for example Ingham and Mothe, 2003).
We were therefore more particularly intestrested in the expectations of the partners and the conditions to be met for the partnership to function harmoniously. This is why it was decided, in agreement with the MEDEF, to give priority to in-depth interviews over the search for a quantitatively important sample. We conducted in-depth interviews with 14 R&D managers in charge of these issues. We then analysed the discourse of our interviewees on the basis of the themes in the interview guide. In 12 of the 14 cases, we were able to analyse a full transcript of what the managers discourse, thus avoiding the bias introduced by filtering at the note-taking stage. The key ideas from the other two interviews have of course also been incorporated into this report.

We successively discuss the context in which these partnerships are built, the expectations of industrial firms with regard to these partnerships, the way in which they perceive the expectations of their academic partners, and then we review the main stages in the development of these collaborations. We then try to draw a certain number of lessons of a more general nature.
In this report, we voluntarily leave a great deal of room for the comments of our interlocutors: we simply introduce summaries of the key ideas and perspective in relation to academic work on certain subjects. The document therefore contains a large number of quotations in inverted commas: the only changes made to the text are the deletion of references that did not allow the anonymity of the interviewees to be respected. It should be borne in mind that these statements were made orally, and therefore the style may differ from that normally used in a written document.


The document can be obtained from the author.


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This website's webmaster is Pascal Corbel, Professor of management at Université Paris-Saclay.

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