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New Franco-American research unit

Inter-cultural communication

With the creation of Georgia Tech-CNRS Telecom labs, CNRS inaugurates its 10th international research unit, the first one based in France. The endeavor brings together researchers from five French scientific institutions(1) with researchers from the renowned Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

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© A. Cheziere/CNRS Photothèque

The campus of Georgia Tech Lorraine, the European branch of the Georgia Institute of Technology.


In 1990 the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, second in the United States in terms of research activity, opened its European campus in France: the Metz-based Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL). The original collaboration with CNRS is now turning into an International Research Unit (UMI). Abdallah Ougazzaden, professor at GTL and director of the UMI, describes the new prospects offered by this transatlantic partnership .



Could you tell us about your career and how it has led to you to taking on the leadership of the Georgia Tech-CNRS international research unit?

Abdallah Ougazzaden: I specialized in optoelectronics–the science involved in the transmission of information through optical signals–doing a PhD thesis at the CNET/France Telecom labs.2  Immediately afterwards, I went to work in the same lab, and later at Bell-Labs Lucent Technologies in the US. I returned to France to work on more academic research-oriented activities and accepted a post at the University of Metz. When a position opened up at GTL, I thought it was a good opportunity, in the sense that I know and appreciate both cultures. It seemed natural for me to take on a role that bridges the two worlds.


This international research unit is the successor to a national joint research unit. What are the advantages of going international?

AO: One of the main benefits of this internationalization is that it widens the scope of our research. The involvement of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) will take the research labs to the international level, facilitating the flow of researchers between France and the United States. This could mean both faster results and the possibility of additional funding.


What areas of research will this unit focus on?

AO: “Smart materials” is a new field we will be covering. We investigate both the materials related to optics and electronics as well as microstructure and functional materials. We will also be expanding our “secure network” activities with three important projects. One is chaos-based communications, a very advanced topic in the field of communications technology. Its goal is to use the chaos in optoelectronic devices, a non-linear phenomenon, as a key to securing information. We also work on quantum cryptography. One last field is high-speed optical communication. We would like to develop tools for this type of transmission.


How will this new partnership benefit students from the various institutions involved?

AO: In research, most of the results come from work by PhD and postdoctoral students, who spend all of their time in the lab. Encouraging and facilitating the participation of advanced students in collaborative activities will be a main priority. It is very important for young researchers to work in an international context, because research is becoming more and more global.


How will research in these new technologies be transferred to the private sector and contribute to product development overall?

AO: We're trying to establish contracts and collaborations with some key industries in relevant fields. The negotiations are in process, so I would rather not cite company names. We are trying to identify these companies' specific needs to facilitate transfers. We are also covering intellectual property and patents. Eventually, if we develop our own technology, we might create our own startups, either in France or in the United States.


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© A. Cheziere/CNRS Photothèque

Optoelectronics and development of semiconductors are among the prospects of GTL.


Final thoughts?

AO: I am very excited about this project. With all the resources, impressive skills, and outstanding researchers present at GTL, and with the support of Georgia Tech, CNRS, and all of our partners, I'm sure that we have all the ingredients necessary to make these projects and this international unit a real success.




Marianne Niosi

Notes :

1. ENSAM (industrial and mechanical engineering), Supélec (electric energy and information sciences), the Université de Franche-Comté, the Université de Metz and CNRS.
2. CNET: Centre National d'Etudes des Télécommunications (The National Center for the Study of Telecommunications).


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