Laura Chaubard, an arms expert new CEO of Polytechnique

A former member of the DGA and the office of the Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly, she transformed the landscape of military innovation in France.

By Guerric Poncet

Students from the Ecole Polytechnique during a ceremony on November 11, 2019 in Paris.

Laura Chaubard, the new director general of Polytechnique, appointed Wednesday, October 5 in the Council of Ministers, is an expert in military innovation. Having passed as a student by the prestigious school (promotion X99), she then obtained a doctorate in algorithms at the University of Paris-Diderot. In 2006, she joined the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), the branch of the Ministry of the Armed Forces in charge of supplying equipment to the military, from armored vehicles to planes, including ships, assault rifles, missiles or uniforms again.

A general armaments engineer, she devoted herself in particular to artificial intelligence applied to defence, a field then totally new in the minds of decision-makers. Then, from 2013 to 2016, she was head of the office for strategic SMEs. Its role is to supervise and support the ecosystem of companies essential to the sovereignty of France but which are “under the radar”, in particular the subcontractors of giants such as Dassault, Nexter or Naval Group. In 2017, still at the DGA, she led the budget programming work for the armies for the period 2018-2022, when Emmanuel Macron had just been elected President of the Republic and announced a historic increase in appropriations.

A reshaping of defense innovation

In August 2017, Laura Chaubard joined the cabinet of the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, as adviser for innovation and digital technology, while the word cyberwar was finally on everyone’s lips at the top of the State. With its experience in managing strategic SMEs, it is a key player in the major upheaval of the French innovation system with the creation of the Defense Innovation Agency (AID). This new entity must be more agile and more responsive than the venerable DGA, a formidable tool for managing nuclear submarine programs over thirty years, but less accustomed to juggling start-ups. AID remains under the supervision of the DGA, but its former boss, the bubbling Emmanuel Chiva, has just taken over the reins of the parent company by becoming the new general delegate for armaments at the end of July.

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To ensure the survival of companies essential to the sovereignty of France, Laura Chaubard created the Définvest fund, a reactive body capable of saving start-ups at short notice, as was the case when the French nugget Preligens (expert in AI for satellite image analysis) was almost taken over by the CIA. In addition to these two major achievements, she is also at the heart of the creation of the General Directorate of Digital at the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and she writes the artificial intelligence roadmap for the military. In October 2019, she left the ministry to take over the general management of the Public Establishment of the Park and the Grande Halle de la Villette, in Paris. She participates in the Futurapolis forum of Pointin Toulouse, and details its vision of tomorrow’s military innovation (see video below), as well as his perception of the cultural world in the Covid crisis. Three years later, in October 2022, she took over as head of l’X.

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Laura Chaubard, an arms expert new CEO of Polytechnique

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