The French minister for the Armed Forces at École Polytechnique
While visiting the École Polytechnique to discuss with Polytechnicien students and to preside over the X2019 departure ceremony, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, spoke at length about the war in Ukraine and emphasized the need for high-flying engineers to meet the challenges of an increasingly dangerous world.
As a military School, École polytechnique is run under the supervision of the French Ministry for the Armed Forces, through the General Direction for Armament, the French Government Defence procurement and technology agency responsible for project management, development and purchase of weapon systems for the French armed forces.
The Minister took time to give anoverall picture of the new situation that Russia's war against Ukraine represents for France and, more broadly, for Europe, and emphasized the need for "high-flying engineers" to face present and future crises, insisting on the role of the École Polytechnique, "the crucible of French scientific excellence".
"With this war, Europe is becoming aware of its strategic dependence on Russia," she said, calling for "putting ourselves in order of battle to no longer depend on Russia and strengthen our European sovereignty."
The minister also stressed the critical need for high-flying engineers to face the challenges of an increasingly dangerous world and recalled the commitment of the Ministry for the Armed Forces, to prepare future generations of engineers.
"We must be prepared for conflicts that take place on land, at sea, in the air, but also in space, in cyberspace, on the seabed and in the information field," she said.
The Ministry for the Armed Forces, the state's leading investor
The 2019-2025 defence programming law has strengthened France's defense effort, added Florence Parly, noting that the Ministry for the Armed Forces is now the state's leading investor.
"Every year, we invest 20 billion euros in the design, construction and maintenance of our defense equipment. The largest projects of the state are with us, at the Ministry for the Armed Forces (...) We also have major projects in areas of very advanced science (such as) quantum," she said, recalling that in 2018 she created the Defense Innovation Agency, endowed with one billion euros, to innovate and integrate the most advanced technologies.
"To continue to defend our country, to ensure its sovereignty and to protect French people, the Ministry for the Armed Forces needs engineers at the highest level," the minister insisted. "We need you to remain at the forefront of innovation," she declared before the Polytechnique students of the X2019 and X2020 classes who came to listen to her and ask her questions.
Florence Parly emphasized that the Ministry for the Armed Forces was "doing its part to prepare future generations of engineers.
"With the creation of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris, we wanted to increase the critical mass and give birth to a world class scientific and technology institution : 30 laboratories, 2,500 publications per year, 900 teacher-researchers, more than 1,000 doctoral students, and a constantly sought-after synergy with companies," she said.
"This ecosystem is essential to provide our country with top-flight engineers. And I am pleased to see today that IP Paris is being built floor by floor."
The minister recalled that the Ministry of the Armed Forces had dedicated nearly €500 million to the École Polytechnique over the 2017-2021 period and that nearly €600 million should be invested over the next period.
"This investment is made because we know how much you can bring to your country in return," she said.
Social and Gender Diversity
"The École Polytechnique is the crucible of French scientific excellence," stated the Minister.
"I am also very concerned that the École Polytechnique draw this excellence from the diversity of society and I sincerely hope that it will continue to recruit students from all backgrounds," she said, emphasizing the progress that still needs to be made and praising the efforts of the École Polytechnique and its students to promote diversity. Florence Parly also called for greater gender diversity at l’X, which in 2022 will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of its competitive exam for the Ingénieur Polytechnicien program to women.
"France needs engineers, and there are still too few women entering scientific fields. We must encourage them, we must lift the self-censorship that still exists far too much among young women and girls."
After a guided tour of the "Fifty Years of Women @ École Polytechnique" exhibition, Florence Parly presided over the military leaving ceremony for the X2019 class.