Interview: Michel De Crémiers, intellectual property manager for the Safran group

Transform research investments into intangible assets: that’s the aim of Safran’s patent and intellectual property protection policy.

Why is protecting our intellectual property so vital for Safran?

Technological excellence is the wellspring of competitiveness in all markets where Safran holds leadership positions. To maintain this leadership we apply a continuous innovation strategy backed by an active patent policy. The number of patents we file for is showing steady growth, and is now nearly 500 patents a year. In 2009, we moved from fifth to fourth place in the national rankings established by the French intellectual property office, behind only PSA (Peugeot-Citroën), Renault and L'Oreal.

What types of technologies are patented?

Naturally, those that represent the largest R&D investment. In the aircraft engine sector, these technologies generally concern composite materials, turbines, compressors and combustors. They will enable us to meet the objectives set by ACARE for 2020, including reductions in oxides of nitrogen, greenhouse gases, fuel consumption and noise. Another main objective of our research is the enabling technologies needed for tomorrow's "more electric" aircraft. In the defense and security markets, Safran is on the cusp of innovation for inertial sensors, information processing, critical software, contactless biometric sensors, identification algorithms and smart card security.

In practical terms, how do you support this policy?

We provide trainings to raise employee awareness of the strategic importance of intellectual property. Just about everybody is concerned, not just our research engineers and managers, but also our production and maintenance staff. Furthermore, the group-wide Safran Innovation competition gives out an award for patented innovation, and a corporate intellectual property committee takes the measures needed to protect the inventions developed by Group companies. We never forget that the quality of our patent portfolio is just as important as its quantity.