PARIS Probably the worst effect of the current economic crisis is the inadvertent loss of jobs. Seeking to retain microelectronics skills and ultimately prevent brain drain in the region, a Grenoble-based cluster has launched an initiative aimed at securing careers, and the first company to implement such measure is silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafer and substrates supplier Soitec SA.
In an interview with EE Times, Nicolas Leterrier, general delegate of Minalogic micro, nanotechnologies and software competitiveness cluster, discussed the ins and outs of this measure decided upon the French December 2006 law on career security.
This measure has three objectives, started Leterrier. "The short-term objective is to preserve companies' cash money and make sure they don't burn it in wages for employees they don't necessarily need. The second objective is a mid-term one. We have realized that innovation occurs at the parting of sciences, and many companies may need specific competencies at a specific time. The third and long term objective consists in easing the transfer of people from research institutes to companies in a view to help them industrialize their innovations. Today's missing link in the French research is this ability to let innovations generated in public or half-public research institutes enter companies."
This is a Minalogic initiative that he said was presented to other French competitiveness clusters to encourage them implementing it in their regions. "What is interesting here is to place the employee at the center of the value creation so that he or she can fully leverage his/her competencies in a company or a research institute and, once he or she is back to his/her original structure, he or she can promote his/her accomplishments and experiences. Exchanges work in all ways, from public to private, from private to private, from private to public and from public to public."
When the law was voted on December 2006, Leterrier explained that it was a period of relative growth and the idea was more to attract talents rather than share them. He continued: "As we entered the economic crisis, we had to give an answer to several SMEs that, in the face of economic difficulties, had to implement a restructuring and lay off highly qualified employees they had struggled to attract in their ecosystem. We have people being transferred from large companies to SMEs and contrarily people from SMEs being transferred to large groups or research institutes. Transfers must be possible in all ways because the fluidity of resources transfer is essential to our ecosystem."
Questioned on the importance for local companies, and more broadly for the Grenoble ecosystem, to retain microelectronics competencies within the region, Leterrier declared: "We file between 300 and 400 patents per year in the Grenoble region. We need to feed this ecosystem with either young graduates or qualified people to make sure this context of innovation develops itself at the parting of sciences. It is crucial to attract and retain these talents on the territory."
This measure has no predefined deadline and is rather flexible in line with the law due to end on Dec. 12, 2010. This is a temporary law that will hopefully be postponed.
Soitec, the first illustration
Faced with the economic crisis and a sharp fall in demand early 2009, Soitec (Bernin, France) unveiled in April its plan to cut its workforce by about 10 percent. The job management plan is now finalized and two measures were presented to the employees: an agreement to second staff within the Minalogic competitiveness cluster in Grenoble and incentives to encourage voluntary departures.