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20 years of sponsorship for the ecological and energy transition

The "Sustainable Development" and "Sustainable Energies" teaching and research chairs, both supported by EDF, are celebrating their 20th and 15th anniversaries, a long-term commitment to the ecological and energy transition.
The 20th anniversary celebrations for the “Sustainable Development” and “Sustainable Energies” Chairs were held on 7 February 2024 / Photo: Jérémy Barande.
08 Apr. 2024
Chairs, Research, Economie, Energie, Environnement et Climat
Scientific level :
Laura Chaubard, Luc Rémont, et Jean-Paul Cottet assis à une même table portant le logo de l'École polytechnique.
Laura Chaubard (École Polytechnique), Luc Rémont (EDF), and Jean-Paul Cottet (École Polytechnique Foundation) at the ceremony.

At the end of 2023, EDF, the École Polytechnique and the École Polytechnique Foundation renewed both the "Sustainable Development" and "Sustainable Energies" teaching and research Chairs, thus extending a long-term relationship for the ecological and energy transition. The two Chairs are celebrating their 20th and 15th anniversaries respectively. In particular, the “Sustainable Development “Chair, created in 2003, was a pioneering Chair at École Polytechnique.

Its renewal was celebrated on 7 February 2024. This was the occasion for a scientific seminar on two major themes related to the two Chairs, preceding the renewal ceremony attended by Laura Chaubard, Director General and Acting President of the École Polytechnique, Luc Rémont, Director General of EDF, and Jean-Paul Cottet, Managing Director of the École Polytechnique Foundation.

An opportunity for discussion

To celebrate this longevity, the two Chairs jointly organised a seminar entitled "20 years of sponsorship for the ecology and energy transition", featuring two round tables with experts from higher education and research, industry, and public policy, preceded by introductory presentations. Each round table was preceded by an introductory keynote presentation. They were a place of lively interaction with the audience. 

Keynote lecture on "The revival of nuclear power worldwide" by Valérie Faudon¹.
Round table moderated by Nathalie Croisé, with Renaud Crassous³, Sylvain David⁴, Charles Weymuller⁵, and Valérie Faudon¹.
Keynote lecture "Resilient development and climate change: what can we learn from the 6th IPCC report" by Gonéri Le Cozannet⁶.
Round table moderated by Nathalie Croisé, by Bérengère Mesqui⁷, Maud Mouchet⁸, Alain Burtin⁹ and Gonéri Le Cozannet⁶.
¹General Delegate of the SFEN
²Independent journalist
³Executive Chairman of NUWARD, EDF Group
⁴Research director at CNRS/IN2P3
⁵Chief economist at EDF
⁶Researcher at BRGM and lead author of the IPCC report on "impacts, vulnerability and adaptation"
⁷Deputy director of energy statistics at the French Ministry for Ecological Transition
⁸Senior lecturer at the MNHN
⁹Director of the Energy Management Programme, EDF R&D

A long-term sponsorship

While partnerships between the public and private sectors have become more commonplace, the signing of the "Sustainable Development" Chair in 2003 marked the beginning of an innovative collaboration.

The École Polytechnique's Chairs and sponsorships enable teaching and research programmes to be financed, while guaranteeing strict respect for academic freedom. 

The longevity of the "Sustainable Development" and "Sustainable Energies" Chairs shows the École polytechnique, the École Polytechnique Foundation and EDF share common values and are committed to supporting societal issues.

Learn more in the video presentation of the Chairs (in French) :

Two Chairs for Sustainability

The "Sustainable Development" Chair

Dominique Bureau, head of the "Sustainable Development" Chair.

The aim of the "Sustainable Development" Chair, headed by Dominique Bureau, Chief Economist at the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, is to mobilise the teaching and research departments at the École Polytechnique around scientific issues related to sustainable development, based on the observation that these problems are multidisciplinary in nature. Four of these departments are involved: mechanics, economics, humanities and social sciences, and biology. Through its actions, it fosters collaboration between the economic and social sciences, the natural sciences and engineering.

"We were convinced that Polytechnique, given its 'polytechnic' character, was a wonderful place to break down barriers," explains Dominique Bureau.

In terms of teaching, the Chair supports the "Environmental Sciences and Challenges" Advanced study Programme (AP), offered in the third year of the Polytechnique engineering cycle.

The Chair funds post-doctoral research projects in the field of sustainable development, with the aim of exploring new fields with a multi-disciplinary outlook and scientific interest recognised by the laboratories. Its support has focused on a variety of research areas, including:

  • Improving climate science and climate models,
  • Choice criteria for decisions involving the very long term,
  • Assessing the costs to society of climate change and biodiversity erosion,
  • Impacts resulting from economic behaviour.

The Chair's prospects for the coming years are ambitious, with a new line of research focusing on the evaluation of public policies. This includes a project led by the Economics Department of the École Polytechnique in partnership with PSE, the aim of which is to analyse and evaluate the 'Ma prime Renov' scheme, a government subsidy launched in 2020 to encourage energy-efficient home renovation. In terms of teaching, the Chair will be providing support for the introduction of the 'Engineering sustainability' course on sustainable development.

Committed to disseminating knowledge, the Chair will also support scientific events, such as the Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment summer school, and joint seminars with the the IP Paris interdisciplinary centre ‘Energy4Climate’ and the “Sustainable Energies” Chair.

The "Sustainable Energies" Chair

Headed by François Willaime, Director of Research at the CEA, the "Sustainable Energies" Chair's main aims are to support teaching as part of the "21st Century Energy" Advanced study Programme (AP), in particular courses on nuclear energy, including lectures by leading figures in the energy field, and to fund research initiatives.

François Willaime, porteur de la Chaire « Énergies durables ».

The "21st Century Energy" AP has trained 15 classes of students, some of whom have already gone on to remarkable careers in the energy field.

Although the course is now widely chosen, the number of students has varied from year to year according to current events and the aspirations of the students, reaching a low in the mid-2010s following the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. "We are grateful to EDF for maintaining its support when enrolment in nuclear courses was very low, which enabled us to be operational when demand for training in this field increased again," explains François Willaime.

"We are grateful to EDF for maintaining its support when enrolment in nuclear courses was very low, which enabled us to be operational when demand for training in this field increased again," explains François Willaime.

The Chair provides financial support for research internships abroad in the field of energy. In 2023, this involved 26 internships in the United States, Japan, Chile, Canada, Finland, Norway, Germany, Great Britain, Denmark and Switzerland.

On the research side, the “Sustainable Energies” Chair funds projects with nuclear applications, such as new materials development processes and advances in non-destructive testing, as well as batteries, climate change resilience and photovoltaics. 

Find out more about the Chairs in Energy and Sustainable Development at École Polytechnique.