urbanism
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A Knowledge Centre for Innovation in Saint-Etienne

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A Manufacture (of weapons), a plain (Achilles), a factory (of innovation), laboratories (of innovative uses and practices), a large factory (creative), platforms (technological), hotels (with project), a village (by CA), a centre (of Knowledge for Innovation), a concierge, incubators, accelerators...and even a Mixer! It all starts as an inventory (à la Prévert) ... to take on the appearance of a lament (for progress) ... and finish as a revolutionary district, entirely dedicated to innovation and, what's more, without equal in France ... to the delight of the inhabitants of Saint-Etienne.
 
Saint-Étienne, innovation in working order! The Manufacture-Plaine Achille district illustrates the aspiration of an entire city for novelty and activity. In collaboration with the city and the metropolis, the Public Institution dedicated to the development of the city of Saint-Étienne (EPASE) has set up an urban project that is as daring as it is comprehensive, with the ambition of both reconverting a former 31,000 m² industrial site and developing an attractive district with regional, national and international appeal.
The objective was to project itself into the 21st century, to anticipate the economy and technologies of the future. Benefiting from numerous structuring facilities, Manufacture Plaine Achille has become a place of excellence, the "M station" of Saint-Etienne.
 
This district is, in itself, a true integrated ecosystem dedicated to creative and innovative services provided, among others, by recognized institutions such as Manutech, the Cité du design, the ESADSE and Telecom Saint-Étienne.
Manufacture Plaine Achille is now recognized as the district of creative professions, grey matter and innovation. It offers, within a city park, a geographical proximity between companies, designers, researchers, students and inhabitants, thus encouraging exchanges, synergies and creativity.
This organization is the result of a development carried out by the developer and his partners "layer after layer". The various operations have all been piloted as part of an overall urban and economic programme. Anyone can therefore live and work at Manufacture-Plaine Achille, but also study and research, explore and invent.
This environment has also been designed to be the most favourable for the creation of innovative companies. In accompanying this process, EPASE with Caisse des Dépôts has designed real estate programmes adapted to the emergence of startups: incubators, accelerators and business incubators. In fact, from their creation to their full maturity, many "start-ups" have received support and backing.
Twelve years later, the district is in full swing and the city is counting 2,000 new businesses and 4,000 new jobs. A success story.
 

A university centre of excellence

In order to implement a complete ecosystem dedicated to research and innovation, EPASE, together with the University and its partners, is currently developing, in co-ownership, a novel project, the Knowledge Centre for Innovation (CSI), for which work began on 23 July 2018.
The ISC was designed to bring together science, engineering and innovation. A true scientific melting pot, this place is intended to welcome a large audience of students, teachers, researchers and companies who will be able to interact with all the actors present on the site. Indeed, the strategy put in place allows the CSI to benefit from direct geographical proximity with the Jean Monnet Lyon-Saint Etienne University (UJM), the Saint-Etienne Telecom School, the Optics Institute, Manutech and the Faculty of Science. Some of the services it will offer will also be offered to non-university structures in the Creative Quarter such as the Cité du design, the Saint-Étienne School of Art and Design (ESDASE), the companies of the Grande Usine Créative and those installed at the Mixer to better cross-fertilise experiences and encourage encounters.
 
The CSI will therefore be, in Saint-Etienne, the place of scientific, technological but also pedagogical innovation. It will be structured around three areas dedicated to training, documentary resources and innovation-entrepreneurship technology transfer.
 
The Great Creative Factory
 
The environment proposed by this centre will be conducive to the valorization of research and its dissemination. To this end, a public agora will host animations and events. In addition to providing a link with the life of the neighbourhood, this place will be a real showcase for the CSI.
 
Promised for 2020, the CSI will complete an urban campus of excellence located in the heart of the metropolis, bringing together more than 1,300 students. The centre will be primarily intended for undergraduate and graduate students for teaching physics, chemistry, mathematics and geology. It will also be designed for professors, researchers and entrepreneurs.

Interview with Philippe Colantoni, Deputy Vice-President for Digital at the Jean Monnet Saint-Étienne University

What is the Knowledge Centre for Innovation?
 
Philippe Colantini: The CSI will be the next facility to be inaugurated on the Manufacturing campus. Construction of the first phase has only just begun. In 2020, it will be operational and will be one of the cornerstones of the creative district. This initiative completes the university offer in Saint-Etienne, which already has a number of premises in the Manufacture-Plaine Achille district, including those of the Faculty of Science and Technology and the Télécom Saint-Etienne laboratories.
 
What is the ambition of this unprecedented project?
PC This project is a vehicle for excellence in training, pedagogical innovation and research. We wish to bring together researchers and companies under the same roof. To do this, the CSI brings together several entities. Among them, the Innovation Factory and its FabLab, the UJM incubator, a technological platform and a project hotel allowing, on the one hand, the valorisation of innovation and, on the other hand, the transfer of knowledge from the university to the business world. The CSI will also be a place where industrialists can easily come to solicit students and researchers to implement new projects. In short, this new facility will, for the first time, bring together for the first time a set of hitherto separate services to form a coherent and perfectly operational whole.
 
The CSI is also a place of pedagogical innovation. How does it do this?
PC :Innovation will indeed go as far as the introduction of a new pedagogy. This building will offer generous spaces for coworking, workshop work or the implementation of completely autonomous projects. The CSI will also host the "Labex", a university research school (EUR) whose principle is to link research and teaching. The aim is to make the CSI a high-level graduate school.
 
Will the CSI offer other amenities?
PC We are setting up a learning center within the walls of the CSI that will be much more than a library. For this project, we are working on the concept of services that we imagine will be perfectly adapted to the needs of the creative district of Manufacture-Plaine Achille. The aim is to offer a so-called new-generation library in conjunction with the other facilities in the district. We want to set up a new loan system, not for books but for technological equipment such as, for example, augmented reality glasses, capture systems or immersion systems. We are still in the study phase for this project as it requires a maintenance service for its implementation.
 
Future Knowledge Centre for Innovation, K Architectures

A strategic economic pole

The Knowledge Centre for Innovation embodies the Metropolis' tenacious desire to bring together the academic and economic worlds, in other words, research and entrepreneurship. In addition to adapted teaching rooms and modular workshops, this new facility will offer a fablab - the Innovation Factory - a UJM incubator, technology platforms and a project hotel.
The ambition of this project is to strengthen the economic attractiveness of Manufacture-Plaine Achille by encouraging the growth of new startups. To achieve this, EPASE, with the support of Caisse des Dépôts, has developed, in parallel, a hosting offer that will evolve in line with the growth of the startups.
The former printing works of the weapons factory was thus transformed in 2013. It houses a third location and a business incubator, "Le Mixeur", which covers 5,300 m² and offers spaces suitable for collaborative work but also for business creation. Inaugurated in 2017, the "Grande Usine Créative", designed in the former Manufacture d'Arme buildings, will support the growth of creative and innovative companies by offering a wide choice of premises with modular solutions and shared spaces (coworking areas, meeting rooms, conviviality areas, etc.).
It is also home to a powerful startup accelerator, "le Village by CA", a business hotel managed by the Métropole, intended for startups emerging from nurseries and very small premises with "flexible" leases for independent businesses.
In order to extend the reception of new startups, 2000 additional m² will be delivered by EPASE within the Grande Usine Créative in 2020.
 
In parallel with the production of developments and real estate programs, the Metropolis offers many tools to support entrepreneurship and accompany business creators. This ambitious policy involves the creation of dedicated spaces combining accommodation and services, all adapted to the rapid development of startups. The Metropolis is thus setting up a real pathway from incubator to accelerator. A complementary range of services is also offered by the Metropolis, which notably organises creators' breakfasts, creative after-work sessions, meetings with key accounts and academic meetings.
 
This policy takes on even more meaning as the different places, fab lab, Mixer, Innovation Factory, are accessible and open to all.
Finally, a more specific range of services allows the passage "from idea/concept to demonstrator/prototype". It supports individual and/or collective projects and facilitates cross-fertilization. Creativity is notably stimulated by the organisation of "creativity sessions" which are part of an ad hoc methodology developed in the neighbourhood: "the Laboratory of Innovative Uses and Practices".
 
François Mitterand Park

An adapted urban project

On the strength of its development, Manufacture-Plaine Achille is looking to the future with confidence and promises to create around the vast Parc François Mitterrand made by the landscaper Alexandre Chemetoff nearly 230,000 m² of new or renovated buildings. A complementary offer adapted to the Manufacture will offer premises for testing and prototyping necessary for any innovation. This fixed asset will be flexible and modular in order to adapt to the rapid growth of startups in Saint-Etienne.
However, Manufacture-Plaine Achille will be giving pride of place to mixing, this source of creativity. Housing programs will be developed near the new cultural facilities and the François Mitterrand park. Generous family apartments will be built there, all benefiting from large outdoor spaces to provide a pleasant living environment in the very heart of the city.
The architectural quality but also the environmental exemplary nature of these operations will therefore be at the heart of EPASE's concerns in order to perfect the image of Manufacture-Plaine Achille, a creative district.

Le Qu4tre, building " écologiquement vertueux ", equipped in particular with geothermal heating and photovoltaic panels / Sketch Frédéric Busquet Architect

Interview with Frédéric Busquet, architect

You are developing a self-promoted office building in the Manufacture-Plaine Achille sector. What exactly is it about?
Frédéric Busquet: The second project is indeed a self-promoted office complex. As we develop our activity as architects and as our partners, engineers and economists, among others, follow this same upward curve, we wanted to jointly create a new workspace that could also be a showcase for our know-how.
We had already built our first premises together, a 1500 m² building, the "Roc acier". Today, we are building 4500 m² of offices to house all our activities but also to accommodate other companies, among them an advertising agency and a temporary employment agency. This building will be ecologically exemplary by being 100 % passive. Its facades will be totally open to the outside and we will benefit from gardens, terraces and spaces that can be shared between our different companies. We have designed a technical project that is certainly technical, but also simple in its operation. Being our own client allows us to build much better, without having to look for a margin.
 
How has PAFSO responded to thisproject in self-promotion?
FB: PAFSO sold us the land while being vigilant about the quality of our project. They carried out a real work of accompaniment both on the form of the project and its positioning. These discussions were never binding, on the contrary, they enriched our proposal.
 
How do you see PESAL's work?
FB: EPASE has been carrying out exemplary action for several years in Saint-Etienne and we now benefit from quality public spaces that are contributing to the rapid transformation of the city. The Manufacture is now a fully mature site that perfectly illustrates the ambition of the public establishment. We are therefore witnessing the creation of a polarity here. We are now on a piece of land that is, without doubt, one of the most expensive in Saint-Étienne, which used to be one of the least expensive cities in France. The system is gradually evolving and thus creating the conditions for a small land pressure illustrating a regained attractiveness. In addition, the Manufacture-Plaine Achille sector, by virtue of its development, but also with the arrival of the second tramway line, makes it possible to bring the station and the science park together within a coherent urban ensemble.
 

How does the Biennale de Saint-Étienne also participate in this economic policy?

The Biennial is the flagship event enabling Saint-Etienne to become a little London. For Marc Chassaubéné, Vice-President of Saint-Etienne Métropole, in charge of Design and Digital, "This high point in the cultural and economic life of Saint-Etienne offers visibility to the city but above all to its actors. Because of its international dimension, the Biennial is a spotlight on new practices but also on innovative companies. It is, moreover, a formidable springboard. In fact, we hope that companies will take greater ownership of the event because it is an opportunity to meet key accounts who will be able to bring projects to their full maturity. The Biennial is a generator of opportunities.
The 11th edition of the Biennale de Saint-Etienne will be held from 21 March to 22 April 2019. The international dimension of the event will be further strengthened next year with the curatorship provided by Lisa White, an American who graduated in Political Science in Washington. For this Xth edition, the Biennial has entrusted this trend expert with the reins of the event, which will undoubtedly be a high point of creation and innovation on a global scale. »
 

Next steps in the development of the Manufacture-Plaine Achille sector

As Line Rival, project manager for the Manufacture-Plaine Achille district at EPA Saint-Étienne, explains, the project for the Manufacture-Plaine Achille involves the production of 230,000 m² of new production space, 30,000 m² of which is being renovated. To this end, a programming study has been initiated, the conclusions of which are expected at the end of 2018. A Guide Plan will be published in the first half of 2019, based on the results of this study. The operational phase - even if it has already begun - will be more widely engaged from April 2019.
 
"Through the succession of industrial and urban crises it has gone through, the city of Saint-Etienne has demonstrated its ability to rebuild itself, before design was put forward as the basis for this reinvention. The buildings of the former Manufacture d'Armes, the lively heart of a vibrant creative district, now offer a palimpsest of how they have been transformed over time, since their foundation stone was laid in 1864, to accommodate new functions and new uses. Building-tool malleable to the evolution of industrial production methods, urban wasteland open to the social demand for major cultural facilities (Cité du design, 2006, Finn Geipel), university (Knowledge Centre for Innovation, 2019, K Architecture) or proximity (crèche and school group, 2012-2013, Alexandre Chemetoff and associates), to temporary experimentation (fab-lab), without turning one's back on the productive city by hosting startups and co-working spaces (Grande Usine Créative, 2017 - Agence Vurpas).
All these architects have thus found here a material to express, through their own sensitivity and the requirements of a programme, their relationship to heritage and modernity. The Manufacture thus constitutes a model for the development project carried out by the Etablissement Public d'Aménagement de Saint-Etienne and forged around the notions of reuse and inventive economy dear to Alexandre Chemetoff who was the first urban project manager (2008-2017). »
Stéphane Quadrio, Director of Development at the Etablissement Public d'Aménagement de Saint-Étienne.
 
 
Header image : 1/500 scale model of the Manufacture-Plaine Achille district / Agnès and Olivier Doizy - Modelers
 

 

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