The three-question interview with Bruno Ragué, Associate Director, IRT Nanoelec

  • How likely is it that we will see any changes in public policy?

The current situation is favorable. Since 2015, the International Year of Evaluation, there have been a number of initiatives to place evaluation at the center of public policy decisions in France. This is true in general terms (see, as well as for the government’s economic stimulus package, Investissements d’avenir. To give one example, the network of Technological Research Institutes (IRTs), which includes IRT Nanoelec, was evaluated in mid-2015. The findings, which were positive, position us to plan ahead to 2020. An upcoming evaluation mid-2019 will be decisive in terms of planning for 2020–2025 and beyond to 2030, even.

  • Where is the economic impact study that kicked off three years ago?

In 2013 we made assessing the economic impact of IRT Nanoelec a priority, both because we want to ensure that we are making the best possible use of government funds and because evaluation is one of the main conditions for continued funding. However, we also feel strongly that to improve our performance and effectiveness—of our governance system, our decisions—we have to measure the impact of what we are doing. The first step was an IRT Nanoelec evaluation meeting in February 2016, where the initial results of the study conducted by the consultants contracted by IRT Nanoelec were presented. In 2016 and 2017 we continued with two additional studies, one to evaluate the ways in which corporations that belong to IRT Nanoelec engage in joint, and particularly multi-partner, projects; and another to assess the impact of IRT Nanoelec programs, and especially Easytech, on SMBs. A preliminary report will be issued mid-year and more complete results and recommendations will be presented in the second half of the year.

  • Why can’t the socioeconomic impact of IRT Nanoelec be assessed now?

The report will be a preliminary report, for several reasons. First, IRT Nanoelec opened in 2012. Data on human resources (headcount, socio-professional category, etc.), revenue, self-financing capacity, and other indicators is generally not available for the years before 2014 or 2015. It is also important to point out that for IRT Nanoelec’s industrial partners, the benefits of participating in joint R&D projects are generally not seen until one to five years after project completion. Therefore, a long-term evaluation is necessary. In addition, several indicators have not been fully investigated. I am referring here to human resources, the main asset of an organization like IRT Nanoelec. We need to look at our attractiveness as an employer, mobility, and other issues that give us valuable insights into our strengths and areas for improvement. Last but not least, the web of innovation support programs is complex. The impact of financing instruments implemented under France’s economic stimulus package, similar programs like the IRTs, and other government programs like support for SMBs would need to be evaluated according to the same criteria for a given local economy. More consistent evaluations would make it easier to interpret the results and confirm the recommendations. Therefore, the IRT Nanoelec evaluation is a long-term evaluation with broader benefits.