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Academy : National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)
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Freight Systems

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

The report assumes fuel and pollution-related costs of transport will rise substantially.  However, such costs are only a minor part of the overall costs of a transport system that includes logistics for managing the “Production – Transport – Distribution” chain.  The report looks specifically into the transport of manufactured goods, representing 50% of total volume, but growing at a rate of 8% per year.  On a global scale, this marine-based system appears to be resilient and self-adapting to market conditions, while the local chains include rail, road and waterways.  Potential cost reductions are mainly linked to the power of IT in logistics, including in production (M2M), collection, shipping and distribution: the “second invisible arm”.
The study takes account of both world and European trends, and draws comparisons for gaining a better understanding of the French issues.  It also looks at related French Research capabilities and how to improve cross-fertilisation between different disciplines, the linkage to the private sector and international collaborations for greater impact.  Last, not least, it points to the need of making this sector more attractive to talented young people and adapt the curriculum at the “Grandes Écoles” to the needs of the market.

Group Leader: Jean-Claude Raoule, NATF Territorial Delegate West, Technical Advisor to the French Railway Industry Association, Director of the European Association of Railway Interoperability, and NATF Fellow.

The patient, technologies and ambulatory medicine

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Due to the increased life expectancy and the related increase of chronic diseases (as opposed to acute disorders when patients are younger), an alternative approach to hospital care has become necessary: a third of the population of France and the US now suffers from chronic diseases.  Ambulatory medicine, which is a health care system that keeps the patient at home while offering him the same outstanding quality care that he would receive at the hospital, is such an economically viable approach, responding at the same time to the wishes of patients, to economic requirements and scientific, technological and medical developments.
This report describes recent advances of ambulatory medical care, identifies obstacles to overcome and incentives to encourage and makes recommendations for future development with the aim of optimizing the management of healthcare costs, with special emphasis on the role of information technology to master the complex system of information flows between the many stakeholders.  It does also identify the potential hurdles and necessary incentives and looks at issues of compliance with existing law and legal adaptation to the new requirements.  It also evokes the necessary training of the various actors in order for the system to function adequately.

Working-group Leaders: Francis Lévi, Professor of Medical Oncology and NATF Fellow, and Christian Saguez, Former Professor at École Centrale de Paris and NATF Fellow.

Large Socio-Technical Systems

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Large, networked Socio-Technical Systems (or LSTSs), often continental or even global in scale, such as railroad-, air traffic-, electric-, and telecommunications systems, and the internet, have modified life-styles and society. Citizens see them as combining sciences and technologies, offering essential value-for-money services.
They have common characteristics: expected safe and no-break service quality; co-operation of a myriad of component parts, including agents.
Success and vulnerability through complexification (national and European regulations, multiplication for each LSTS of autonomous agents) and inter-dependence (inroads by ICTs, liberalisation) go hand-in-hand.
During the past 15 years, the drafting of new regulatory texts that promote sustainable development of the LSTSs, incorporating technical trends while reconciling local aspirations and nation-wide issues, has become increasingly difficult.
NATF proposes:

1) An objective analysis of the experience from the last 20 years for each LSTS, covering operations, quality, costs, jobs, risk control, governance and regulation, crises situations/incidents and the degrees of interdependence with other LSTSs.
2) Exploring possible (global) trends for the next two decades including sustainable development.
3) Teach LSTSs to young people early on for a better appreciation, including of S&T and ongoing innovations.
These proposals should contribute to better informed decision processes that benefit our children.

Yves BAMBERGER (WP Chair and Draft author) – Scientific counsellor to EDF
CEO – Fellow of the NATF

Big Data: a change of paradigm can hide another - Opportunities and threats related to the emergence of new ecosystems

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Big Data implies a revolution in IT, reaching from technology to applications and practices, enabling the analysis of vast pools of "digital traces" to know customer intentions with unmatched precision. Data manipulation from smartphones and connected objects opens up new service opportunities and significant cost reductions of information systems.  While it is a major issue for sciences, politics and citizens, this report looks at the impact on businesses: mastering these methods permits a new immediacy in customer relationships and may leave enterprises less vulnerable to the GAFAs. Big data is:
• a disruptive data-analysis methodology, in particular in marketing, replacing classic approaches by iterative loops in which detected patterns are immediately confronted with situations of implementation and judgement on operational effectiveness.
• a new way of massive parallel data-centred programming and of designing algorithms, due to the: - treatment on a myriad of machines, - high-performance requirements and - need to develop algorithms through learning.
• a major challenge and paradigm shift for Governments and companies, deserving strong support in terms of training and awareness. Technology and practice play key roles; new ways of working with an extremely wide scope need to be developed.

Rapporteur : Yves Caseau, Director Digital Agency, Axa Group, and Fellow of NATF

Impact of ICT on world energy consumption

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

How does ICT impact on worldwide energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions? This is what NATF went to find out when auditioning French and foreign experts to evaluate the overall energy and environmental balance that is due to the ICT sector, considering the impacts generated by the operation of its various hardware and infrastructure, and the savings it spawns in other areas of activity. The final energy and carbon balance of ICT, the Academy report concludes, is clearly a positive one.
In 2012, ICT accounted for 4.7% of worldwide electricity consumption, and a total carbon footprint of about 1.7 percent (including private, industry and telecom hardware and infrastructure and data centres). These numbers are on an upwards trend, but in smaller proportions than the growing use of ICT, thanks to its contribution to reduce these footprints in other areas of activities such as in the transport sector, buildings, manufacturing industries, or even dematerialised procedures.
The report focuses on the (global) transport/mobility sector benefitting from digitisation in and around vehicles, with gradually reduced/optimised travel needs (example United States).  It also lists current lines of research aimed at better performance of computing, with lower energy consumption.

Group Leader: Erol Gelenbe, Professor in the Dennis Gabor Chair Imperial College, London, and NATF Fellow and Yves Caseau, Director of the Digital Agency, AXA Group, and NATF Fellow


National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

The 14 members of the NATF working group on biogas published its report in early 2016.  Historically speaking, biogas, resulting from the decomposition of organic matter, has been known since the late 18th century, when Alessandro Volta analysed the composition of swamp gas, finding methane as the main component.  In France and India, the exploitation of this process through bacterial “fermentation” in digesters started in the late 19th century while China builds a whole infrastructure around biogas, but always on a local scale, taking advantage of carbon credits from European industry for their funding.  In Europe, the production of biogas on an industrial scale takes off somewhere between 1980 and 1990, while France joins in at a somewhat slower pace than some other countries.

The report describes the various sources and processes for the generation of biogas, such as:
1) hermetically sealed waste dumps and the capture of biogas from anaerobic digestion – this source of biogas is declining;
2) anaerobic fermentation on an industrial scale of household waste (difficult to handle because of heterogeneity of such waste) with different species of bacteria developing peak activity at different temperatures;
3) fermentation of agricultural crop waste (including maize) and animal droppings (including dung);
4) processing of biodegradable sludge from waste water treatment plants (and other biological waste) using a controlled thermophilic aerobic fermentation; etc.

The valorisation of the resulting digestates as fertilizer is not yet well regulated.
Biogas plants using a second generation methanisation process, dubbed Bio-methane 2G, a thermo-chemical process of methanisation of dry organic material at temperatures of 750 to 1000°C have been built at Ulm, Germany and Gothenburg, Sweden.

With regard to climate change, biogas is regarded as a renewable energy reducing the generation of greenhouse gases and EU policies therefore promote the generation and utilisation of biogas.  The report describes policies and practices of a few selected countries. However, untreated biogas is not fit for burning in industrial installations, for generating electricity or being injected into the gas grid.  It contains various contaminants such as Nitrogen, CO2, H2S, siloxanes, etc.  These need to be filtered (using scrubbers, membrane technology and other purification processes).  The report describes these processes.
The success of biogas as a substitute for natural gas, including for electricity generation and injection into the gas pipelines, depends entirely on the amount of financial incentives granted and the report argues that such incentives should be decided and given at the local level where the installations are to be built.  The authors believe that in France biogas has the potential to attain about 1 million toe (tons of oil equivalent) per year by 2020, somewhat less than what official sources tend to communicate.

White biotechnology and synthetic biology

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Biotechnology is the application of S&T to living organisms. White biotechnology (Bio-Based Industries - BBl) uses renewable carbon sources  in fermentation processes to produce food compounds, fuels, specialties and chemical commodities, and plastics.  Synthetic biology (SB) introduces engineering principles into biotechnology, promoting the emergence of a true bio-economy.  Although endowed with a well-developed agriculture and BBI-related research, there are only about a dozen companies engaged in applications of SB to BBl in France, including start-ups, intermediate enterprises, and Total, resulting in few industrial realisations. The sector is considered risky by investors.  A consistent effort to train  engineers and PhD-students in these areas is essential.  Regarding risks, traditional BBI-products must be distinguished from SB-products in specific sectors. Upstream from industrial SB-applications on a large scale, research on the security, safety, ethics, toxicology and ecotoxicology is vital.  The academic SB community self-regulates its conduct in an effort of openness, transparency, anticipation and prevention of potential risks.

Working-group leader: Pierre Monsan, director “Toulouse White Biotechnology” and NATF Fellow.

Technologies and Climate Change - Solutions for Mitigation and Adaptation

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

The report takes stock of available or future technologies for mitigating climate change. First conclusion: climate-engineering, in the current state of knowledge, is not an alternative.

Then it identifies the most favourable conditions, especially in the most contributing sectors, for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promoting preventive adaptation measures, including a carbon emission penalty. The cost of increased energy efficiency must be less than the value of the energy saved and, as the case may be, the worth of CO2 not emitted. The same cost-benefit analysis should apply for any mitigation technology considered. Preventive adaptation measures are possible in agriculture, forestry, energy, urban environment, manufacturing, coastal protection, access to safe water, resources management, etc. Moreover, involving civil society (lifestyles and behaviours) will play an important role in reducing GHG emissions. And we must not forget technologies in developing countries, which are often more vulnerable to climate change than the richer developed countries.
Working-group leaders: Marion Guillou, President of the Board of the Agronomic, Veterinary and Forest Institute of France – AGREENIUM; and Alain Pavé, University professor and former Research director at CNRS – both are NATF Fellows

The automobile of the future

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

The report gives an overview of world-wide automobile production and its foreseeable development: the position of the electric vehicle, the market for hybrid vehicles and ‘green' fuels (including hydrogen).  It suggests that mobility might evolve into a simple service (car ownership no longer being the first choice) where the electric vehicle for urban use finds its place, given that the majority of the world population will live in large urban areas.  The car is then looked at from the perspective of a global mobility system with inevitable changes in patterns of movement, infrastructures, regulation and multi-modality.  Considering the technological dimension of the car of the future, how will it impact future domestic technological and design capabilities and the industrialisation process and which are the key technologies to remain in control of French companies to maintain a competitive automotive industry.  Recommendation: Preserve an automotive industry in France.  It is a vector of technological innovation and provides millions of jobs.

Working-group leader: Olivier Morel, President Competitiveness Cluster NOV@LOG, President of PREDIT’s Logistics and Transport of Merchandise Group (GO4), and NATF Fellow

Report of the National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF) - First contribution to the Energy Transition National Debate

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Changes in world-wide energy production and utilisation are partly imposed (emerging countries’ energy needs, depletion of some oil/gas fields), or voluntarily implemented (energy autonomy, climate-change policy, industrial competition). France has launched a nation-wide debate on energy-policies with the participation of NATF. This document is a first contribution. It examines also the policy paths chosen respectively by the USA and Germany.

Some of the EU 20-20-20, the EU “Roadmap to 2050”, as well as self-imposed energy targets can be achieved through demand-control and energy-efficiency, i.e. better (including older) building insulation, more efficient household appliances, direct heating, thermal solar panels, heat pumps, etc. While new urban areas need to be energy-lean with little commuting requirements, meeting these requirements has a price and needs societal commitment.

Fossil fuels should be kept for transport and chemical industry sectors. Vehicles will increasingly use electricity or biofuels. Industrialists stabilise energy requirements through improvement of production processes. French nuclear power capacity will continue, but move to more flexibility, compensating for the intermittency of wind- and solar power. “Smart” grids and non-intermittent renewable energy sources should contribute to power stability. Total savings in French energy consumption could attain –15% by 2025 and –30% by 2050.
The final goal is the reduction of the GHG emissions at the least cost.

Working-group leader: Bernard Tardieu, Honorary President Coyne & Bellier, President of the Committee on Energy & Climate Change, and NATF Fellow


National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Strong variations of atmospheric concentrations of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have accompanied glacial and interglacial periods. Such variations influence the timetable and magnitude of climate changes.
The report describes and analyses natural and human-related sources and sinks of atmospheric methane with particular attention to potentially massive emissions from thawing permafrost in Arctic wetlands and marine methane hydrates (clathrates). The methane fluxes between main reservoirs and the atmosphere is measured via ground-based networks or from outer space, allowing a better understanding of evolving atmospheric concentrations and interaction between sinks and sources.
As atmospheric methane is destroyed over time (half-life ~7 years), its CO2 equivalence, in terms of GHG-efficiency is not straight-forward, depending on the time-scale applied.  While increasing fossil fuel exploitation is an important methane source, emissions could be limited at reasonable cost.  Feedbacks from wetlands and soils are more difficult to control. 
A number of recommendations on how to limit methane release are made in areas such as agricultural practices, waste- and landfill management, biomass combustion, exploitation of coal, natural gas and oil. Carefully follow developments in boreal zones, especially regarding the possible exploitation of methane from permafrost and marine clathrates.

Group Leader: Jean-Claude André, Former Director of the European Centre for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computing (CERFACS), and NATF Fellow