2 February 2024

In many ways, a research centre, institute or laboratory is very similar to a business. There is a management team, production tools, objectives, a budget, partners, suppliers, customers… However, they differ on one point, and not the least: their employees are overwhelmingly researchers. and highly qualified scientists.

Their main motivation is to advance science in general and the subject on which they work in particular, without necessarily being accountable for their activities, respecting a timetable or worrying about possible commercial outlets. And, even if they work more and more often in teams, international or even geographically dispersed, they pursue their personal careers and are also recognized individually.

Of course, there are nuances of temporality, purpose, evaluation of performance – or rather of results – depending on whether it is a question of public or private research, and depending on the discipline. Conducting a research project in nuclear physics requires other financial and human resources than a study in anthropology or sociology. Biogenetics is progressing thanks to the work of numerous teams, active all over the world, who are in competition and yet who constantly exchange and share. The management of these teams therefore requires a different approach from that of a company management, a marketing or production department, to take into account all the specificities of this universe.

Everyone’s needs and aspirations

“A research team is less homogeneous than a company’s sales or marketing department, where there is a strong sense of community, where everyone comes from the same business schools. The researcher differs from a collaborator by the singularity of his expertise. It is very important to respect this uniqueness, the great diversity and heterogeneity of the profiles. Consequently, it is necessary to make a management for each one! », notes Blandine Thibault-Biacabe, now director of human resources for research and innovation at the L’Oréal group, after having been HRD at L’Oréal France. It currently manages some four thousand employees, researchers and technicians, two thirds of them in France; the others are distributed in twenty-seven centers in the world.

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The difficulty consists in individualizing the management to take into account the needs and aspirations of each one, while maintaining the coherence of the team and staying on course to complete the projects on time and on budget. “We must distinguish between research and development, researchers and engineersexplains Chahab Nastar, director of research and innovation at the Learning Planet Institute, formerly an interdisciplinary research center founded by geneticist François Taddei. The management of development or innovation teams is close to traditional management, we have metrics, indicators, etc. »

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