Réseau PIERI
Article mis en ligne le 21 novembre 2013
dernière modification le 17 septembre 2015
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Paris Interdisciplinary Energy Research Institute debates over energy sourcing and climate protection have led to widespread interest in a coming energy transition. The PIERI has been conceived in this context of continuous growth in world energy demand and pressing environmental concerns, notably climate change.

Although the need for concerted action is widely acknowledged, research in these fields is

mostly conducted on a fragmented, mono-disciplinary basis. The aim of the PIERI is to bring together researchers from sciences, technologies and the social sciences – drawn from both the public and private sectors – into a single, federative structure. Its objectives are to develop interdisciplinary perspectives on energy issues, to nurture fundamental discoveries on energy sourcing, to develop empirical applications, to promote knowledge transfer to companies, to understand societal impacts and to inform policy-making processes.

Development of the PIERI

The PIERI has developed through several formative stages. The idea emerged within the

scientific community of the University of Paris Diderot, and was brought to public attention by a conference, held in May 2010, entitled : ‘Energy : constructing the interdisciplinarity of

tomorrow’. The founding conference attracted more than 100 researchers, drawn from both the physical and social sciences. The event provided the momentum to establish working groups, and these subsequently defined the main lines of the project (known in French as the LIED - Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire des Energies de Demain). The next stage in the establishment of the institute was the creation of an international research network. It is anticipated that the LIED-PIERI will, in time, have at its core about 150 individuals, including scientists, technologists, social scientists, engineers, technical and support staff, to be based on the Paris

Diderot campus. However, there is no limit to the number of members who can participate in the network : collaboration at the national and international levels is an important goal of the PIERI.

The PIERI is formed of five categories of membership, of which the Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire des Energies de Demain (LIED) constitutes the core. The LIED is an interdisciplinary research centre based in the new campus of the University of Paris Diderot - Paris 7 which specialises in the themes outlined above. Its distinctive feature is to bring together researchers from the public and private sectors in both the physical sciences (biology, chemistry, information technology, mathematics, physics, earth sciences) and the social sciences (economics, geography, history, political science, sociology). It is composed of 2 permanent researchers who have the opportunity to interact on a daily basis and at a variety of levels (namely, research teams, groups and laboratories). The internal structure of the LIED is based on nine new research groups (detailed below), federated in a single entity. It has a governing body – the ‘Scientific Council’ – which deliberates on strategic orientations, including research proposals and funding requests.

The second category of membership involves colleagues from existing laboratories in the University of Paris Diderot. The third category is composed of university researchers based elsewhere in France, who are either on secondment to or co-recruited by the University of Paris Diderot. The fourth is formed by researchers seeking temporary or looser xollaboration, for example by participating in seminars, short term stays or joint funding proposals. The fifth comprises the international affiliates of the PIERI network.

Researchers from the private sector are integrated along the same lines. In addition, a science park is planned to operate in conjunction with the many companies who support the project. Given the transversal activities of the PIERI, numerous ‘start-up’ ventures are envisaged and significant employment creation is expected.

Research orientations : balancing fundamental and applied research. The work of the PIERI is organised around four axes :

  • Fundamental science and low-carbon energy sources ;
  • The science and technology of energy efficiency ;
  • Forecasting, social and economic analysis, and public policy studies ;
  • Interdisciplinary epistemology.

The titles of first two axes already illustrate the aspiration to combine fundamental and applied research. Two complementary research groups have been established, entitled : ‘Innovative energy sources and biomaterials’ and ‘Energy transport, instabilities and fluctuations’, composed mainly of researchers from sciences and technologies, but with input from social scientists. The third axis is subdivided into six themes, which all bring together the physical and the social sciences, namely :

  • The geography of energy sourcing ;
  • The multilevel governance of energy ;
  • Social representation and innovation : hydrogen and other energy pathways ;
  • Energy efficiency and modes of consumption ;
  • Forecasting models and interdisciplinary convergence ;
  • Smart grids.


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