How the GIANT Innovation Campus Lives Up to its Name

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In this article, UIIN – Lehigh University Iacocca Scholar Mustaffa Said shares with the UIIN readers his impressions of his site-visit to the GIANT Innovation Campus, in Grenoble, France. Mustaffa’s article also reflects on his two interviews with Dr. Francine Papillon, Head of GIANT Programs coordination Group at CEA Grenoble as well as with Gary Admans of ESRF, that he has conducted with his fellow Scholar Reesha Patel .

In an changing world of rapid technological advancement, increasing educational opportunities and groundbreaking research in energy, information and health fields, there lies a need to bring together important actors and leaders from all sectors of research, education and industry in order to propose solutions to humanity’s most pressing challenges. At GIANT Innovation Campus in Grenoble, France, such unique interaction has taken hold and flourished. From challenging the young minds of tomorrow to pioneering in fields of research, GIANT Innovation Campus strives to make leaps for a better future for all.

Residents of the Science Park

The Grenoble Innovation for Advanced New Technologies, otherwise known as GIANT, is pioneering the growth and utilization of university, research, and industry partnerships to plan for and ignite the future. The founding organizations of GIANT include three universities (Grenoble School of Management, Grenoble Institute of Technology, Grenoble Alpes University), three European Research Laboratories (European Molecular Biology Laboratory, The European Synchrotron, and the Instituit Laue-Langevin), as well as two research institutions (The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, CEA, and the National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS.) It is not limited to this as they do have partnerships with industry entities such as ST Microelectronics and Siemens.

Secret ingredient to success

How do all of these members work together, and what makes GIANT so successful? For one, there are three meetings every year with representatives from each part of GIANT to talk about next steps and to make sure objectives and goals are aligned. According to Dr. Francine Papillon, head of GIANT programmes, there is currently an extensive focus on Urban Planning on the campus. For example, GIANT aims to optimize accessibility within the campus through implementing efficient tram routes that aid to get from one end of campus to the other.

Additionally, GIANT emphasizes the importance of team building and collaboration, which can be seen through the annual marathon they host annually. The marathon event, called the Ekiden, integrates the entire campus and sponsors, and involves teams from each organization. Teams of 6 individuals compete in various events, creating an opportunity to unite the campus and to encourage team bonding. In comparing GIANT to universities, GIANT shows its campus spirit quite well.

While this being the case, when working with numerous groups, challenges do arise as well. Keeping all the institutions together and aligning various interests is demanding as it requires a leader to facilitate this. Because of recent developments in uncharted territory in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and nanotechnology, there is also a question of ethics as to whether the next steps of scientific progress are aligning with the progress of humanity.

A brief history

It is important to understand the beginnings of GIANT and how it got to where it is today. GIANT started with a focus on basic research, which has since been transformed into applied research. The development of the GIANT collaboration began when academics were first producing research. Through experimentation of adding industry, a different approach was taken. There was also a drive to involve the city of Grenoble into its initiatives, both through social and scientific development, which is accomplished through projects that aim to connect with the city’s inhabitants. GIANT strives to work with industry and facilitates research for them. GIANT researchers help to develop the next technological breakthroughs through the innovation chain, as industry entities would not be able to do within the scope of their own R&D because it would be too expensive. As GIANT has the scientific expertise of the most modern advancements, it has the advantage of localization of all parts of innovation centralized into one place and thus creates a comparative advantage to conduct such activities throughout the entire research process.

Risk-taking through collaboration and partnerships underlie the initiatives of the GIANT campus. An environment that allows all parties involved to provide input and to gain expertise from others not only helps generate groundbreaking ideas but also to ultimately aid in solving the world’s most pressing issues. GIANT lives up to its name, not necessarily just because of its sheer physical size, but also due to its drive to lead the next generation of thinkers.