Every month, MINES ParisTech offers you the opportunity to discover a doctor and his or her career path in connection with the School or its research centres. Today, meeting with Kevin Levillain, doctor and currently post-doctoral student in the framework of the Chair of Theory and Methods of Innovative Design.
Jn 2015, Kevin Levillain defended a thesis on "Mission-driven enterprises: forms, models and implications of a collective commitment".
It is now participating in the design of a new status for the company of the 21st century: "the company with an extended corporate purpose".
Kevin Levillain joined MINES ParisTech in 2007. During his second year as an engineering student, he did an internship at Thales Innovation Group. "It was a great experience that provoked my initial thoughts on the definition of innovation processes," he says. "In my third year, I chose an option devoted to innovative design methods applied to different forms of organisation. In retrospect, I know that the desire to continue towards the thesis appeared at that time". Kevin Levillain contacted the Centre de Gestion Scientifique MINES ParisTech. "My exchanges with the researchers were encouraging and I understood that this thesis would not close any doors for me, whether to the business or academic world. Kevin Levillain gave a brilliant defence in April 2015.
Designing a new status for the company of the future
Kevin Levillain is currently on a post-doctoral contract, funded by the Chair of Theory and Methods of Innovative Design. He is interested in "extended social purpose companies": companies that set themselves other objectives (social, environmental, or in the order of scientific and technological progress) than strict profitability. These objectives are enshrined in the company's articles of association and new legal forms are emerging. "I am closely studying the development of this ecosystem in the United States, from the legal and management angles. I am also involved in the design of this ecosystem in France because it is a very emerging subject. One of my case studies is the Rouen-based company Nutriset, which employs around 160 people. It designs and manufactures nutritional products for southern countries. It has modified its articles of association by broadening its purpose and including nine commitments that meet criteria that are not only economic: to make effective proposals on nutrition issues, to honour the needs of ecosystem players, to implement pioneering strategies, etc.".
His advice: be an actor of his thesis
For Kevin Levillain, the most important thing is to get rid of prejudices about thesis work and research work. "For three years, a doctoral student deals with a variety of subjects and can accomplish different tasks in addition to his research: organizing academic events, teaching, interacting with civil society actors, meeting with industrialists,... Research is not only the doctoral student's research: the whole lab is behind you! ».
How do you choose your subject? "I advise you to discuss the subject you are interested in with different researchers, and therefore different laboratories, and finally to co-write it with the future thesis director who is able to detect the potential for novelty and the theoretical and practical interest among the possible orientations. And then, and this is an opportunity, you have to be ready for unexpected experiences. I have been called at 9am to present my work to a senator at 3pm. This is part of the political stakes of research. I was also fortunate enough to meet a lawyer from a large American law firm, specializing in new forms of society, who was involved in the drafting of a law recently passed by the California General Assembly. »
Holder of a "Tenure Track", Kevin Levillain now wishes to continue the research as it is being carried out at the Centre de Gestion Scientifique, combining cutting-edge theoretical questions with more empirical questions as close as possible to a variety of companies, such as Nutriset, AXA or La Camif.
What about tomorrow? "I have just received a positive response from the French National Research Agency to structure an academic fabric around these questions, with researchers from Great Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere...".