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LVMH will be able to set up its research center next to Polytechnique in Saclay

Translated by
Nov 8, 2022

The world's number one luxury goods company LVMH will be able to set up its new research center on the Saclay plateau in Essonne near the Polytechnique engineering school, despite protests from several students and alumni.

The innovation and research park, on land owned by the Paris-Saclay public development establishment. - Site de Polytechnique

Polytechnique's board of directors has validated by 19 votes for, 4 against and one abstention the sale, to LVMH of land near the school.

The project, called LVMH Gaia, will eventually bring together 300 researchers on a site of 22,500 square meters, according to LVMH, which intends to invest more than 100 million euros in the future building.

The research center dedicated to "sustainable and digital luxury" of Bernard Arnault's group, who he himself is a polytechnician, plans to invest 2 million euros per year for five years on research partnerships with Polytechnique, nicknamed the X.

The land, located within the innovation park of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris, which includes five schools, including Ecole Polytechnique, belongs to the Paris-Saclay public development establishment. Since the plot chosen by LVMH is close to the engineering school, the latter had a veto until 2025.

Since its official announcement this summer, several Polytechnique students and alumni have expressed their opposition to the project, notably through a collective called "Polytechnique is not for sale!" This group is demanding that the LVMH center be built outside the campus and that the land in the northeast zone of the campus, including the parcel coveted by LVMH, be reallocated to the use of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris.

An article published in Le Monde at the beginning of September signed by 73 alumni referred to a "noxious project" that "works on technical problems far removed from the school's research themes: replacing plastics with more ecological alternatives in perfume packaging, developing more efficient recommendation algorithms to increase the quantity of products sold, etc."

"This is not the end of the protest"

The signatories accused LVMH of wanting to "cement a fake respectability on the environmental issue and secure a privileged access to the students of the campus, while the schools benefits would be extremely slim, both financially and scientifically."

Matthieu Lequesne, spokesman for "Polytechnique is not for sale!", told AFP that four votes against and one abstention in a board of directors "which always votes unanimously" is a strong sign of opposition. "The last time there was so much opposition was in 2016," he said.

"This is not the end of the protest," he assures, "the users of the campus are in majority against this project."

However, nothing certifies that LVMH will acquire the land, according to the spokesman of the collective. The director of strategy of the luxury group, Jean Baptiste Voisin, left doubt Monday in Les Echos.

If the board of directors of Polytechnique does not oppose the purchase of the land by LVMH, "we will have the opportunity to buy it, but it is not said that we will. This is just one of many options for setting up in the Paris region, and we are studying all of them," said Voisin, who is also general secretary of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris alumni association.

The project is "completely transposable", according to him, "you take it by helicopter, you drop it where you want".

In January, the TotalEnergies group gave up its plan to build its new research and development center on land also located near the École Polytechnique after teachers and students opposed to the project protested.

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