Philippe Watteau, the alchemist

Like any good landlord, Philippe Watteau, director of Y.SPOT, wants to show us around the brand new building. First
CEA open and collaborative innovation center located on the scientific peninsula of Grenoble, Y.SPOT is a bright, contemporary place where everything seems to have been thought out so that researchers, innovators and industrialists meet, exchange and collaborate. Objective: to jointly design breakthrough innovations for the society of the future. A friendly and inspiring place at the crossroads of worlds, like its director with laughing eyes.

Arrived in September 2021 at the head of Y.SPOT, Philippe Watteau is like a fish in water. ”
My compass has always been innovation and technological progress. I like being where we prepare for the future. My obsession is that industry and scientists work hand in hand to achieve this, by jointly addressing questions of use and societal dimensions. Within Y.SPOT, my role will be to create bridges between these different worlds that have long advanced without really talking to each other. Today, the conditions for alchemy are met “, he slips enthusiastically.

Y.SPOT © F. Ardito / CEA

An innovator at the crossroads between industry and the CEA

Philippe Watteau did not land in the scientific and technological world by chance. The son of a mathematics teacher and a commercial mother, he was passionate about science and technology at a very young age. To the point of transforming his teenage room into a real laboratory. ”
My office was a bench where I soldered electronic circuits while listening to France Culture… I liked to experiment, tinker and learn. But my career as an apprentice-scientist came to an end quite quickly in the face of my first scientific disillusions. “, he says hilarious.

Philippe Watteau will not become an engineer or researcher. Never mind, that won’t prevent him from working for innovation and embracing a career that can satisfy his curiosity. He then turns to trade.
to be able to work in different fields “. A graduate of the EDHEC Business School and holder of a bachelor’s degree in European law, he began his career with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group, before joining the CEA where he actively participated in the creation of the industrial partnerships from 2010. Subsequently, he was seconded to Air Liquide – one of the world’s largest industrial gas groups – or more recently to the company specializing in electric and autonomous mobility Védecom.

New horizons with the CEA as your home base

back and forth between industry and academia are essential for Philippe Watteau. It’s a way for him to stay connected to reality. ”
In reality, I never really left the CEA. It remains my home base. But these forays into the private sector allow me to keep in touch with industrial issues, to understand innovation needs but also to make companies aware of the progress of scientific and technological research. “, he explains. ”
Philippe is a bit of a scientific explorer. He needs to discover new horizons, study and collect more and more information. And each time, this knowledge has enriched him and enabled him to capture new opportunities and create favorable conditions for innovation at the CEA. », Considers one of his closest colleagues, Pierre-Michael Micaletti, from the management of the CEA List institute.

This rich experience allows him to
understand the expectations and problems of the company as researchers and make them coincide. ”
Philippe has a transversal understanding of the subjects and has been able over the years to establish relationships of trust with many industrial partners. His pioneering temperament is also an asset. He likes to launch projects and federate. In this bubbling of creativity that is Y.SPOT, it really belongs “, testifies Corinne Hueber-Saintot, director of valuation who has worked with him for more than 10 years.

Philippe Watteau

Philippe Watteau © F. Ardito / CEA

An enlightened innovator

Taking the helm of this unique center in France appears to be the logical extension of his career. It is also, for Philippe Watteau, the opportunity to further concretize his desire toprovide innovative responses more in line with major societal challenges represented by health, digital (and in particular virtual universes, the metaverse) and the environment. And that these innovations of tomorrow be more responsible and more sustainable. A holistic and ethical vision which gradually imposed itself on him, but which is now crucial for him. The trigger? His work on artificial intelligence when he was director of the CEA-List in 2016. “
At the time, I realized that we had developed this technology without necessarily anticipating all of its applications. However, today, it is imperative that the innovators that we are have a more complete vision of technologies and that we know how to anticipate their possible repercussions. “, he judges. Values ​​shared by the entire Y.SPOT team. ”
Here, no one is there by chance. We are all convinced that it is possible to innovate within a virtuous framework and that Y.SPOT can be a transformation tool to move in the right direction. The societal dimension is the gateway to conducting all our projects “says Philippe Watteau.

And to achieve this, Philippe Watteau wants, with this unique center,
create new bridges between disciplines, open up the world of fundamental and technological research by relying on the expertise of sociologists, economists and philosophers. Driven by this desire to bring collective intelligence to life, the director of Y.SPOT wishes to stimulate creativity while anticipating the meeting of the public and future innovations. In this spirit, the artists will also have their place in the Arts-Science workshop, a joint initiative of the CEA and the Hexagone Scène Nationale Arts Sciences – Meylan. A project that Philippe Watteau wishes to see strengthened with the creation of an “Arts, sciences and society” campus project. Struck ”
by the premonitory power of art », this descendant of the painter Antoine Watteau sees there « a source of inspiration but also an opportunity to confront and enrich our points of view. It is an essential opening on society. »

Interview by Anne-Laure Lebrun

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Philippe Watteau, the alchemist

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