Basic research is an essential prerequisite for technological research. Contributing significantly to the development of new methods and solutions, is also a source of innovation and industrial competitiveness. The ANR thus supports early-stage research, technical innovation, technology transfer and encourages collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Due to its role within the French research funding ecosystem, the Agency interacts with all the sector’s stakeholders. It develops joint initiatives through its Generic Call for Proposals (AAPG) and specific programmes proposed in its Work Programme. Representing nearly €20 million every year, these partnerships constitute additional research fundings and help to strengthen the continuum between basic, technological and targeted research.
The ANR makes partnerships with institutional players within the AAPG which is open to all scientific disciplines. These enable funding partners to support research projects in the sectors that interest them, selected according to rigorous competitive processes that guarantee fair treatment, independent scientific peer review and impartiality. For example, the French Defence Procurement agency (DGA) and the French General Secretariat for Defence and National Security (SGDSN) follow themes of interest to defence and civilian research (energy, global security, cyber security etc.) through the Work Programme 2019, while the National Solidarity Fund for Autonomy (CNSA) supports themes relating to ageing, independent living and quality of life.
The ANR also develops partnerships with research organisations from public-and-private sector focusing on specific programmes, such as Astrid, the Challenges and the Flash programmes, to drive research momentum on targeted issues of interest to the funding partners and develop the maturity of these projects. The programmes include the annual Astrid and Astrid Maturation programmes. Fully funded by the DGA and organised by the ANR, they aim to support projects whose potential impact relates to both the civilian and military fields and to develop the maturity of dual-use research (including research arising from these programmes or from DGA theses). The projects funded thus contribute to the DGA’s activities in anticipating and mastering the evolution of technologies that will be necessary or useful for future defence and security systems.
250 Astrid projects and 32 Astrid Maturation projects have been funded since the programmes were founded in 2011 and 2013.
Partnerships forged through specific programmes also encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors. The Argos Challenge (2014–2017), for example, fully funded by Total and organised by the ANR, demonstrated the effectiveness and the momentum generated by these programmes, which aim to fund research consortia working on targeted, ambitious themes to overcome scientific, technological or methodological obstacles. The collaborations involving the five international research teams financed by the group have contributed to the development of an autonomous robotic monitoring and exploration platform dedicated to complex, hostile industrial environments. They have also reinforced the position of these teams on the robotics market.
The ANR also ties partnerships for the implementation of specific “Flash programmes”. These are a means of mobilising a scientific community very quickly in response to urgent research needs thanks to an accelerated project selection and funding procedure with no compromise on the principles of peer review. Launched by the ANR on behalf of the SGDSN, the Flash call for proposals on the protection of sensitive areas from drone overflying, for example, took only 18 months to develop demonstrators in operational environments providing a technical and technological response at an actual site. A system to combat illegal drones developed through the ANR Boreades project has even been industrialised to respond to civilian or military needs.
The ANR also makes available its expertise in project selection and in administrative and scientific monitoring through partnerships with public-sector organisations, including local authorities such as the Guadeloupe region. This includes launching calls for proposals, managing the selection process, agreeing contracts and monitoring the selected projects.
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