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Paris Innovation Campus

Collective intelligence to match customers' needs

Air Liquide’s R&D experts work hand in hand with the business teams. Aude Bertrandias, an engineer at the Paris Innovation Campus, and Benjamin Fillion, Biomethane Operations and Projects director in the United Kingdom, tell us how they work together to optimize the production of clean energy derived from organic matter. This example of cooperation shows how diversity of view points is a source of collective intelligence that accelerates innovation to serve the customer.

"These joint efforts give us better insights into the challenges of our customers"

Interview of Aude Bertrandias, R&D Engineer at the Paris Innovation Campus, on the life sciences team

What kinds of projects do you collaborate on with business operations?

I work with the business teams on biomethane projects, specifically on biomass treatment and the methanization process – transforming matter, such as straw, food residue or household waste, into biogas. The aim is to develop innovative solutions to optimize biomethane production and provide our customers with solutions that perfectly match their needs and uses. Because Air Liquide operates along the entire biomethane value chain, from production to distribution, we collaborate on a wide variety of topics.

Are the research projects always long term?

No, not necessarily! If an Air Liquide customer asks Air Liquide to work on one of its facilities, Benjamin can call on our expertise: that is what we call operations support. When this happens, we have to act fast. The business teams usually contact us earlier in the process when they identify a new need or a possible improvement for their customers. So the research project may last anywhere from a few months to several years depending on its scale and its corresponding issues. For example, we have several medium to long-term research projects seeking to optimize our purification processes; this is a real challenge with the diversification of the sources used to produce biogas.

What are the benefits of these collaborations for R&D teams and, more generally, for Air Liquide?

As R&D engineers, these joint efforts give us better insights into the challenges of our customers. I see it as crucial because this enables us to work together on concrete innovations that are closely aligned with market needs. In addition, it allows the Group to deploy a true strike force that combines biomethane business and research acumen, which is a major advantage for opening this market and differentiating ourselves.

"It is really a continuous improvement cycle"

Interview of Benjamin Fillion, Biomethane Operations and Projects Director in the United Kingdom

At what stage in a project do you work with R&D?

We really collaborate throughout the entire project, from beginning to end. In most cases, we jointly define a working approach, then continue to interact throughout all the research and testing phases. The R&D teams then support us with implementing the innovative solutions they developed so that we can offer them to our customers. But it does not end there: they can subsequently recommend new adjustments to any given solution. It is really a continuous improvement cycle.

Can you share an example of an innovation introduced to customers thanks to your collaboration?

What comes to mind are membranes, which are at the heart of the process of purifying biogas into biomethane. The synergy between operations and research made it possible for us to develop new, more effective membranes that generated higher yields in biomethane production and optimized energy consumption. Those are two essential factors to make our offerings more competitive and to better serve our customers and partners.

More broadly, what does your collaboration with the R&D teams mean for Air Liquide customers?

Real value added. We are able to offer them concrete, innovative and effective solutions to address the challenges they identify. Operations has been working with research for a long time. What is different today is that this collaboration happens faster, in phase with the development of a very open Innovation Campus network, which promotes dialogues with start-ups, research centers and universities.

What factors make this collaboration successful?

Listening and open-mindedness. It’s exciting to put forward concrete solutions, to help them mature in order to serve our customers and then see their results. This lends meaning to my work, which I am proud to share with R&D : together we can go further, to respond to today’s environmental challenges.

Find out more about Air Liquide's expertise on the entire biomethane value chain

Article published on April 16, 2019