CEA, a French example of world leading institution in research valorisation

‘From research to industry’ was a mission statement back in 1945 of the French government-funded research organisation  The Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission – CEA (French: Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives). For over 70 years, it contributes to improving the competitiveness of French businesses and economy, and today it ranks among the top 100 innovation organisations in the world.

For years CEA has led a number of research programmes to increase scientific knowledge and contribute to innovation and technology transfer in areas such as low carbon energies (nuclear and renewable energies), defence and security, technological research for industry, and fundamental research in the physical sciences and life sciences (Rivat, 2019).

The Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission – CEA (French: Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) is a French government-funded research organisation, created in 1945 with a mission ‘From research to industry’ to act as a knowledge factory and an accelerator of innovation serving industry.

The STEM valorisation project team had the opportunity to speak with the director of valorisation at CEA and Head of Department for Western France of CEA, gaining first-hand insights into the valorisation process of the organisation.

Valorisation as a core value of CEA

It became obvious that the valorisation activities are one of the most relevant CEA’s objectives throughout several domains: Intellectual Property (IP), marketing studies, economic equation and creation of start-ups. As Technology Transfer (TT) appears to be a main mission mentioned in CEA’s decree, an objective of valorisation is to also support competitivity and maintain CEA’ status of national leading public research institution and help prime society through TT.

The major French patent claimed research organisation

CEA’s large worldwide patent portfolio is mainly exploited via TT activities with industry, leading to 670 patent applications and 700 industrial partners. CEA is the first French research organisation in terms of number of patents filed in France and Europe (Clarivate, 2019), and it is home to 9 research centres, 20 181 employees, 39 joint research units and 216 start-ups.

All employees as a team for valorisation

Besides specialised teams of researchers responsible for valorisation, all employees at CEA are involved in valorisation, from research, IP direction to the development of TT. Employees are collectively socialised to research innovation identities and bring innovation to the French market. Also, at institutional level there is general ambition to promote the culture of innovation and TT and support innovation spirt within employees. This ambition is supported through policy strategies to support spin-offs, detection and maturation of innovative projects within laboratories, training programmes that help CEA’s researchers become CEOs of start-up companies, and CEA’s framework to develop start-ups from various projects (Rivat, 2019).

CEA is the first place in the panorama of IP

Within those strategies, CEA helps individuals find not only their innovation identities, develop and incubate ideas, get mentors and sponsors, but also protect their IP, as the most important part of the valorisation process. CEA is the first place in the panorama of IP, especially patents.

Besides those, CEA also has programmes dedicated to entrepreneurship and partnership with business stakeholders that help researchers acquire entrepreneurship skills.

Research valorisation through CEA lenses

What we can learn from CEA is that valorisation shall be defined in the institutional policies, as well as be part of the institutional mission and a source of drive for the researchers. Researchers must be encouraged to engage in valorisation, there shall be programmes dedicated to support valorisations process within institutions, and IP must be protected.

Co-autored by Nina Branković and Medisa Fočić

Featured image retrieved from Pexels.


Rivat, I. (2019). Case study of CEA – Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, France: Contribution to OECD TIP Knowledge Transfer and Policies project. OECD Publishing.

Clarivate (2019). Derwent Top 100 Global Innovators 2018-19 Report. https://clarivate.com/derwent/campaigns/derwent-top-100-global-innovators-2018-19-report/

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