Involving engineers in the ecological transition through research training

The three engineering schools involved in the I-SITE "Montpellier Université d'Excellence" project:École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier,Institut Agro Montpellier and Polytech Montpellier have chosen to join forces to boost the link between training, research and innovation. With the Research Ingénieur (PRI) course, they are strengthening school-laboratory interactions around innovative projects centered on the issue of transitions towards sustainability (" Sustainable transitions "). To this end, they receive strong support from the MUSE project run by the University of Montpellier.

Training engineers through research is one of the best ways to train students capable of embracing the complex themes of transitions towards sustainability, preserving energy, natural resources, biodiversity and the environment. It also enables them to develop a critical sense, scientific rigor, creativity and a taste for innovation, while developing the systemic vision that characterizes engineers.

By offering this format to their students motivated by learning the scientific approach, these three schools aim to support them in research (public or private) and innovation activities, complementing their specific engineering skills.

A pathway Research Ingénieur (PRI)

As a result, at the start of the 2021 academic year, a one-semester course called "Parcours Research Ingénieur" (PRI) will be open to 8 students from each school and 8 international students, for a total of 32 students. This course involves the research units of the MUSE I-Site. It is centered on project-based learning, supported by high-level disciplinary contributions and " Research " skills common to all students in the course. Thanks to its open recruitment policy, the program has a strong international vocation, and all courses are taught in English. By drawing on cross-disciplinary modules and events shared by students from all three schools, the PRI course aims to enable students to meet, share common values and exchange views, with the ambition of raising their awareness of multi-disciplinary visions, responding to the strong societal challenges that are a natural part of the I-Site MUSE project: Care - Nourish - Protect.

For Stéphan Brosillon, Director of Partnerships, Research and Innovation at Polytech Montpellier (University of Montpellier), who is co-piloting this project, "this pathway offers a real opportunity for students to discover research careers in depth, in a context where the ecological transition is now essential for our engineers" .

The content of the PRI is integrated into the curricula of each school, starting with a common integration seminar, featuring presentations by top-level international speakers and a creativity workshop. The program then focuses on two main areas: disciplinary acquisitions specific to each school, and a research component designed to train students in cross-disciplinary research skills, which are put into practice in group or individual research projects, depending on the school. Engineering students are then encouraged to spend a year in a foreign research laboratory, as part of the three schools' network of international partners.

During the IRP semester, students work on a research project proposed by a laboratory: they carry out a bibliographical study, generate the hypotheses to be tested, establish experimental protocols, acquire and analyze data, then process the results to finally write an article in compliance with good practices and the scientific integrity of research. Students deposit their work on an open publication platform.

For Morgane Burq, a student at Institut Agro - Montpellier, "this course is an incredible gateway to the world of research. It's a cosmopolitan option representing an opportunity to meet new people, including students from a variety of countries whose points of view are very enriching. Rubbing shoulders with other engineering students from Montpellier gives us a lot of cross-disciplinary knowledge, which stimulates creativity and therefore improves the quality of our projects."

Strong support from I-Site Montpellier Université d'excellence

The development of this course has received considerable support from the MUSE I-Site, supported by the University of Montpellier. In fact, it was a triple winner of the "TakeOff#3" call for projects, which supports the implementation of pedagogical systems and encourages innovative practices. The first grant helped set up the PRI with the support of the I-Site MUSE's Centre de Soutien aux Innovations Pédagogiques. The second helped set up a host structure on theInstitut Agro Montpellier campus. This is the HIVE (High Innovative and Versatile Environment), a multi-purpose space dedicated to creativity, collaboration and digital communication, specially designed for the PRI. The third is the creation of a co-working space at Polytech Montpellier, open to the world of research and innovation. The project is supported by theInstitut des Sciences des Données de Montpellier (Montpellier Data Science Institute ) for its computing and data storage/sharing needs.

The creation of the PRI has made it possible to prefigure, as part of the future investment program, one of the nine IDIL (Inter Disciplinary - In Lab' graduate program) masters courses that will open at the UM at the start of the next academic year, thus structuring the graduate school of the University of Montpellier.