Expertise, the engine driving Safran’s scientific and technological progress
Head of the Innovation program at Safran Electronics & Defense, Christophe Guettier is also a Safran Fellow Expert in artificial intelligence applied to complex systems. This is an increasingly important, yet demanding field, where Christophe capitalizes on his scientific knowledge and taste for applied innovation.
Christophe Guettier was born just as personal computers began to emerge and he took an early interest in artificial intelligence – an interest that bloomed into a vocation. “I’ve always wanted to give my passion a practical side,” he recalls. “After my master’s in IT, I started a doctoral program at École des Mines de Paris engineering school, and I wrote my thesis while working at Thales on artificial intelligence applied to radar and sonar systems. I was then hired by a small French company to work on a new autonomous system concept for space probes and drones.”
After this experience in private industry, Christophe went abroad to work in research, first at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the California lab that was a computer pioneer, where he expanded his work on artificial intelligence applied to networks. This experience allowed him to develop a very useful international network of his own, which he would later draw on as a Fellow Expert to help extend Safran’s influence and form ambitious partnerships with research organizations such as CNRS* and Inria* in France and their German counterparts.
Returning to France at the age of 34, Christophe joined Safran Electronics & Defense as head of system projects. This was the start of an impressive career, during which he eventually became part of Safran’s Experts stream. “It all happened quite naturally,” Christophe remembers. “I think that I combined the two main skills that Safran expects of its experts, namely to have the requisite scientific and technical knowledge, and the ability to apply these skills to solve concrete problems, and thus drive the company’s progress by leveraging technological capabilities. Alongside his work at Safran, Christophe also acts as an expert in artificial intelligence and robotics for the European Commission, overseeing projects in these fields.
As a Fellow Expert, Christophe is at the forefront of Safran’s innovative mindset and ambitious goals. He not only supports project teams, but also helps shape Safran Electronics & Defense’s technology roadmap in terms of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, now major drivers of corporate differentiation. For example, Christophe contributed to the eRider project, which won Safran’s 2017 Innovation Award** in the “Customer Satisfaction” category. Based on this advanced autonomous military vehicle demonstrator, Safran Electronics & Defense was chosen by the French army to participate in its FURIOUS terrestrial robot project. Christophe is also contributing his knowledge and expertise to other forward-looking projects, including soldier modernization systems and the French-German project for a next-generation tank, the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS).
While his duties as head of the Innovation program take up most of his day, Christophe still finds time to carry out his Fellow Expert missions, in particular passing on his knowledge. “I don’t do any more training outside our Group,” he says with regret, “but I still like sharing my taste for science, my curiosity and my knowledge. I provide coaching and mentoring of course, but I also help create artificial intelligence training programs. In particular I helped define the curriculum for a three-year Safran University program, with the first two levels taught by Safran’s experts. Completing the third level, taught by Centrale Supélec engineering school, gives students the equivalent of a university degree in this field. We’re one of the first companies in Europe to offer this type of high-level training.”
A necessary investment
Christophe acknowledges that becoming an expert requires people to invest a lot of time and energy, both professionally and personally, to develop their knowledge, establish connections and stay at the cutting edge of a fast-evolving field where the international competition is fierce. But he believes it’s all worth it. “If you’re ambitious, meticulous, creative and capable of applying your ideas, you shouldn’t think twice, because becoming an expert is the fast track to career development. Safran needs experts to achieve the scientific and technological breakthroughs that will shape our world tomorrow.”
*CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), the national center for scientific research; INRIA (Institut national de recherche en sciences et technologies du numérique), the national digital technologies and sciences research institute.
** Safran organizes its Innovation Awards annually to recognize the most promising innovations by Group employees in different categories (technical, service, operational excellence, in the field, etc.).
- © Cyril Abad / CAPA Pictures / Safran