Three questions for Didier Roux

Saint-Gobain’s outward-looking strategy, notably with regards to innovation, has led it to develop and diversify its partnerships. To keep up with eco-system complexity and ever-faster technological change, the Group needs to work more with external partners to extend its expertise.

Didier Roux has been Vice President, Research and Innovation at Saint-Gobain since 2005

How large is Saint-Gobain’s R&D commitment?

For more than five years, Saint-Gobain has been significantly increasing its R&D commitment, by around 5% to 10% a year. Our R&D effort remained very strong in 2013 at close to €430 million.

How do you define your priorities and what are your main research avenues at the moment?

Two factors guide our choice of research avenues: the need to maintain the Group’s leadership position in its markets and the need to develop new markets. Saint-Gobain has to innovate constantly and renew its product ranges on an ongoing basis. This is R&D’s first and most important mission, taking up some 80% of the Group’s research budget.  

Innovation also helps open up new markets for the Group. We set up strategic programs and exploratory programs for just this reason.  

For example, projects are being conducted on how to integrate new functions into building materials, to address such issues as air quality and natural and artificial light management. These projects involve research not only into materials, but also into systems. Studies are also underway on forward-looking topics like home and building applications for fuel cells.

What are the main challenges today in the habitat and construction markets?

The habitat and construction markets are facing exceptional challenges related to energy and the environment that require faster innovation for everyone in the value chain. Cooperation must be strengthened among participants both upstream and downstream of construction (i.e., Saint-Gobain’s suppliers and customers) and extend even further outwards towards partners such as start-ups and academic laboratories.

The habitat solutions we are developing today at Saint-Gobain are energy efficient, with a low environmental impact and offering a superior level of comfort, both in terms of thermal, acoustic and visual comfort and in terms of esthetics and health.

CNRS Medal of Innovation awarded to Didier Roux in June 2014

Created three years ago, the CNRS Medal of Innovation recognizes individuals whose exceptional research has led to noteworthy technological, economic, therapeutic or social innovations. Each year, a panel of judges hands out one to five medals to researchers and engineers from CNRS, other research organizations, universities and engineering schools and industrial firms with a deep involvement in research.

Summary biography

After finishing his thesis on theoretical photochemistry, Didier Roux joined the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 1980. He devoted his first fifteen years at the center to directing research on purely academic topics. The discovery of a new type of instability corresponding to a dynamic transition of a lamellar phase towards a multilamellar vesicle phase (known as the “onion” phase), prompted the exploration of new areas that led Didier Roux to the world of industry and the creation of two companies (Capsulis in 1994 and Rheocontrol in 1999). In 1998, he became a member of the Scientific Board of Rhône-Poulenc, then Rhodia. In 2005, he became Vice President, Research and Innovation at Saint-Gobain. 

Didier Roux has been a member of the French Academy of Sciences since 2008 and of the French Academy of Technologies since 2010.