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Offshoring or reshoring? A dilemma for service activities

Industries October 30th, 2014, E.M. Mouhoud / Professeur of Economics, Paris Dauphine University

Delocalization and automation are now impacting the service sector, with noteworthy consequences on employment in developed countries. Even in the case of highly intellectual activities, a number of inherent tasks can be codified and pre-programmed; some of the processes involved can be automated just like similar industrial applications. The tasks can be automated or executed remotely. Notwithstanding, not all services can be delocalised. It is in the interest of any territorial entity (conurbation, region, city…) seeking to define its strategy for future development or reconversion, to identify and indeed reinforce those services that offer clear competitive edges.

Electronic devices have become pervasive in our household equipment, our cars, our communication tools and indeed in almost every object that surrounds us in our private and professional spheres. Not only do they multiply, but they continue to decrease in size, to use less energy and cost less. To assemble such devices, the semi-conductor industries have perfected silicon-based technologies. However, they will soon be approaching the physical limits of solid state physics. To go beyond this barrier, they are already working on new approaches for nanometric level electronics.

In recent years, the massive and controversial use of drones in U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has fueled an intense debate. But this controversy is only the tip of the iceberg: the development of standalone and remote-controlled machines is but the prelude to the rise of military robotics, a field that involves all industries. It is already used in logistics, communications and training, with expected effects on number of staff and productivity. The gradual integration of robotics will affect the safety of operational troops and combat on the battlefield. It will also raise many ethical questions.

The next automobile revolution will be the driverless car. Ever since the automobile industry was born, it has continuously represented a clear-cut vector for technological progress and societal transformation. Driverless cars, with general roadworthy models running by 2030, promise to bring sizeable changes to the way we live, to the environment, to our health, the economy and industry at large. Market potential is already visible but many questions still remain to be answered.

Energy transition: the issue of power grids

Industries May 31st, 2014, Dominique Maillard / CEO, RTE (France’s national electricity network)

The electricity transmission network is the backbone of the electrical system, a key asset in the energy transition. It must both adapt to new means of production and meet changing consumption needs. Today, the rise of renewable electricity and solidarity between territories are the main drivers of the evolution of this electricity network. The stakes are high.

Automobile manufacturers face a difficult equation: in a globalised market where they can produce, buy and sell virtually anywhere, how can they make the right choice concerning localisation? In other words, how can they get closer to customers while remaining connected to resources, specifically to intellectual resources? The answer might well be found in a new industrial grammar that consists in globalised sourcing, disintegration of value chains and maximisation of comparative advantages. The rise of mega-platforms is at the heart of this redeployment and conveys a redefinition of the competitiveness equation.

Spain is one of the world's leading nations in biotechnology research, but it lags behind in technology transfer and the creation of new companies. The Spanish government is hoping to bring about a radical change in these statistics. To do so, it is focusing on the Israeli biotech sector, a world leader in creating start-ups, as the inspiration for designing an entrepreneurial and business model based on innovation. Not a bad strategy, but it should not remain unchallenged. Let's have a look.

The dawn of a new era for oil in North America: from insecurity in energy supply to insecurity in market access

Industries March 31st, 2014, Benjamin Israel & David Layzell / Research Coordinator, Energy Systems Analysis, ISEEE, University of Calgary & Professor and Director, CESAR Initiative, University of Calgary

The resurgence of global oil prices in the early 2000's has created the conditions for the rapid deployment of a number of new energy technologies. In the last few years radical changes affected supply, competition, demand and social license. North America is now entering a new era in which economic, environmental and energy policy will not be defined by insecurity in energy supply, but by insecurity in market access.

It's understood, the twenty-first century will be the century of robots. And there is a lot of talk concerning a subfamily of these machines: drones. While these remotely piloted aircrafts were first developed in a military context, there seems to be no end to their civilian uses. This development goes hand in hand with a radical change in business models, marked in particular by a sharp drop in prices and an increasing variety of uses. So what are the current prospects?

Since its humble beginnings in 2002, the London technology scene has become a vibrant centre of innovation and entrepreneurship. With its legacy of international industry and diverse population, London is not only an international economic capital, it is also a jumping point to the rest of Europe, Africa and Asia. As a relatively newcomer to the industry, the London tech scene is still eager to prove itself. Its close-knit community attracts start-ups from all over the world, and as recent news indicates, thousands of entrepreneurs, many from the US, are launching their businesses in the British capital.

After missing the first and second industrial revolution, Africa looks set to adopt the third. By combining low-cost services, live information and simple innovations, by making these features available to farms of all sizes, the mobile Internet can allow African agriculture to move up a gear in order to meet its immense needs.

The MEMS revolution

Industries December 9th, 2013, Benedetto Vigna / Executive Vice President, General Manager, Analog, MEMS & Sensors Group, STMicroelectronics

MEMS are to the world of smartphones and tablets what transistors were to consumer electronics in the 1960s. They're everywhere! A series of technological breakthroughs and industrial gambles paved the way to a flourishing market. An insight into this revolution by one its key players, STMicro's Benedetto Vigna.

Blind-alley logics for electricity in Europe

Industries December 3rd, 2013, Pierre Audigier / General Mining Engineer

The objective of the EU is to instate and implement a unified energy market by 2015. But opening markets and connecting grids may sound contradictory with unilateral decisions such as Germany's accelerated energy transition. Thus we see that there are two logics in Brussels, and with the increasing fraction and importance of renewables, they are now diverging more and more. It's time for the EU to look for technical as well as political solutions.

Subsea nuclear power stations: a new future for nuclear energy?

Industries November 15th, 2013, Bernard Planchais / Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President, DCNS

Small modular reactors are seen as presenting a possible route to future nuclear power production, especially in developing countries. Some manufacturers even started to design subsea power stations. In terms of advantages, costs and risk management, it's a completely new equation.

Advances in neuroscience have shed a new light on our understanding of classic issues about learning. How does it work? Is it different for adults and children? During a recent lecture, Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscience researcher, gave an overview of recent discoveries in this field. A revolution in the making.

Tablet sales showed their first sequential decline ever in the second quarter of this year, according to research firm IDC. Apple sold fewer iPads than expected in its most recent quarter. Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader sales fell 20% in the fiscal first quarter ended August 20, two months after the company announced it will no longer make color versions of Nook, only black and white ones. And analysts are worrying about whether smartphone profit margins can hold up as buyer fatigue sets in.

Did you know that in Denmark, thirty plants consuming a yearly 3.5 million tons of waste cover 5% of domestic electricity demand and 20% of heat? The production of energy through waste recovery and recycling is booming. But so diverse are the technologies that a closer look is needed to assess the potential of the celebrated urban mine.

Thanks to scientific breakthroughs, more than 16,000 desalination plants are producing water in 150 countries, including in China, India, Australia, Chile and the U.S. The industry is booming.

Betting on all-electric vehicles: the whys and wherefores

Industries June 5th, 2013, Béatrice Foucher / Vice President of the Electric Vehicle Program, Renault

There is a future in electric cars, but which one? Several technologies are competing and the major manufacturers have opted for very different strategies. Renault distinguishes itself from others by going all-electric. Beatrice Foucher, Director of their Electric Vehicle program, explains that choice and shares the insights of a carmaker on a changing landscape.

Revenge of the brick

Industries May 15th, 2013, François Amzulesco / Chief Technical Officer, Terreal

Fifteen years ago, with the advent of the “new economy”, brick and mortar businesses embodied the ancient world. But the energy transition has just turned the tables: the construction sector is going through a phase of unprecedented innovation. And the industry of brick and tile is at the heart of this revolution – a revolution which focuses on the energy performance of buildings but also on the life cycle of materials.

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