Paris, 27 April 2011

Esther Duflo, Mathias Fink and François Pierrot : Laureates of the First CNRS Medal of Innovation

Economist Esther Duflo, physicist Mathias Fink and robotics specialist François Pierrot are the first ever laureates of the CNRS Medal of Innovation, presented on April 27, 2011 by Minister of Higher Education and Research Valérie Pécresse. This new award honors individuals whose research has led to breakthrough technological, therapeutic or social innovations.

By rewarding Esther Duflo, Mathias Fink and François Pierrot, "CNRS wished to honor three great scientists whose work reflects a cross-cutting and integrative view of research" explains CNRS president Alain Fuchs. "This very open conception of research creates strong links between several disciplines, results in technological innovations and contributes to social progress."
The selection panel is composed of the CNRS directorate general and the directors of the CNRS institutes, the presidents of research alliances, a representative of the ministry of Higher Education and Research, five corporate figures and laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Albert Fert.

Three laureates for the first edition

Esther Duflo, 37, is professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston (United States). This former student of Ecole normale supérieure is helping import the idea of real-world experimentation – or, more precisely, the randomized impact assessment method – into the field of economics. She addresses the question of development through a combination of basic research and fieldwork, bringing practical answers to fields as varied as health, education, agriculture and access to credit. Her methodological concepts, which are currently implemented on every continent, have already earned her many prizes.

Mathias Fink, director of the Langevin Institute ( 1), invented the time reversal mirror in the 1980s, a device capable of recording acoustic or sound waves before retransmitting them backwards. His special mirrors have since found many applications: sending undersea messages only audible to a sensor placed at a specific point, development of touch screens based on the sound signature of each point on a tablet, a diagnostic device for liver diseases based on another of his finds, multi-wave imaging, etc. The founder of four companies, Mathias Fink describes himself as a public inventor and "scientist driven first and foremost by the pleasure of discovering new ideas".

François Pierrot, from the Montpellier Laboratory of Computer Science, Robotics and Microelectronics ( 2), has already created several revolutionary robots. One of these is used on production lines for solar panels and in the food industry (this patent was bought by the leading American industrial robotics company), another is capable of performing three-dimensional ultrasounds, and a third is skillful enough to harvest skin for grafting. Currently, François Pierrot is involved in several projects in collaboration with a Spanish company, the Tecnalia foundation, for which he opened a regional office in Montpellier four years ago.

Find more information on the CNRS Medal of Innovation and the three winners at
You can watch a video portrait of the winners and their view of innovation

Members of the selection panel

- The CNRS directorate general and institute directors

- Research Alliance Presidents:
Olivier Appert, president of the Ancre Alliance
Michel Cosnard, president of the Allistene Alliance
Roger Genet, president of the Allenvi Alliance
André Syrota, president of the Aviesan Alliance

- Seven other individuals:
Yves Caseau, deputy managing director for forward planning, quality, services and innovation
Albert Fert, Nobel Prize in Physics
Jean-Paul Herteman, chairman of Safran/Gifas
Christian Moretti, director of the IRD Center, Tahiti
Agnès Paillard, managing director of Aerospace Valley
Ronan Stephan, managing director for Research and Innovation at the ministry of Higher Education and Research
Robert Zimmer, president of ImmuPharma France


1 - CNRS / ESPCI Paris Tech / Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie / Université Paris Diderot
2 - CNRS/ Université Montpellier 2


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Julien Guillaume l Ph. 01 44 96 51 51 l


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