La première semaine de septembre prochain, nous accueillerons à nouveau des étudiants, venus du monde entier, pour le Master Erasmus Mundus Food Innovation and Product Design... en même temps que nous remettrons les diplômes à la promotion sortante.
Cette semaine sera bien pleine. Il y aura notamment un "FIPDes Day", avec des conférences, des présentations d'étudiants...
Et je peux difficilement faire mieux que vous donner ici l'introduction d'un livret réalisé il y a quelque temps :
Welcome to the FIPDes Day!
This wonderful adventures of FIPDES began some years ago. Let me tell you the story. Once upon a time, there were students from all over the world who wanted to study in the field of food, cooking, science, innovation... At that time, the link between sciences and culinary creativity had been more broadly recognized, and it was clearer that this link was important for the food industry; within the food industry, and in the public, it was felt that food engineers really needed some understanding of the three components of food : technique, art, social link.
Students wanting to learn? Wonderful! Students ready to cross the world to get a first class education in food engineering?
Obviously an answer was needed. And this is how the four core partners of FIPDes met. All of them were facing the same question, and it was felt that each of the four partners could contribute with specific, and complementary forces to a first class educational programme. It is quite remarkable that within two proposals only, the European Community accepted our common programme. This could even be considered as a sign for something important.
By the way, building this programme was (and still is) really enthousiastic, because it's an answer to the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who said once : « If you want to create harmony between men, make them do something together ». In order to create this Erasmus Mundus Master Programme, we had to overcome our idiosyncrasies, our cultural particularities, our individuals tastes for science, or for technology, or for technique...
We have to be open to an « international culture », and this is clearly a big advantage for FIPDes students : instead of being trapped in one particular food culture, they are now exposed to very different ideas. It is not a scoop to say that the food in the north of Europe is not the same as in the south, not only in terms of particular food items, but also in terms of relationship of the human beings and food. There is no such place as FIPDes for the giving to students an open view on food.
What is « good food » ? French people would consider frogs and snails along with stincky cheese, whereas Italian would put much emphasis on different qualities, such as the freshness of vegetables, they would insist on oil, but Irish or Swedish would on the contrary insist on butter, milk, cream, fish, smoked products... Imagine the students in the middle of this : they can be fully aware of the specific qualities of food ingredients, in order to build more universal good food. In the army, it was frequently said that sailors were more « intelligent » than other soldiers, because they could see more countries and cultures.
The same for the FIPDes students, which, on top of this advantage, come from all over the world ! The multicultarily of the team is not only from teachers, but also from students ; students who live together for two years, having the feeling that they make a very particular group, being heavily selected before coming... and one should never repeat enough that the quality of institutions is based on the quality of the individuals making the group.
Why a FIPDes Day ?
FIPDes being created, we had the pleasure to get the first students in September 2012. But remember that FIPDes is very peculiar, and the partners do all that they can to improve the curriculum. Simply giving a diploma ? This would be rather dull. No, instead, we had the feeling that top engineers had to behave differently, more actively, and this is how this FIPDes Day was created.
Of course, in a family, there are different points of view, and this is what makes the family life pleasant. Within the FIPDes context, the various groups are the students, the teachers, and the various partners, from the industry or from the academy. A « feast » had to be entertaining for all !
For FIPDes, we have the idea that sciences and technology is the main thing, so that a feast should be focused on this. We also have a passion for results, not only words, which is why we decided that results should be shown. And as students had made projects, during their two year curriculum, why not propose them to explain what they did ?
Here, it's probably the best place to repeat that an idea in a closed cabinet is not an idea. An idea becomes an idea only when it is implemented, shared, distributed, patented, sold, exchanged, used, improved... and this means that communication is a key factor of the education of top engineers. A feast, in the FIPDes context, had to be a day with a lot of ideas exchanged, and this is how the programme of the day was built. Sharing, sharing, sharing... At FIPFes, we have a dream : imagine a table (being systematic, isn't it a key advantage for engineers), with rows called « students », « industry partners », « academy », « teachers », « administration »... and the same for columns, and imagine that we make a cross in the cells when the two parts are discussing (on food science and technology, on food innovation and product design). We shall be proud if we succeed putting crosses in all cells of the table.
By the way, I know that it is useful to discuss somehow the words « science », « technology », « technique ». The last one, first, is of the utmost importance, because « technique » comes from the Greek techne, which means « to do » ; and it's true that no food exist when it is not produced. However, this is done by technicians, not engineers. For engineers, they have to practice technology, which means the improvement of technique, using science or not. Some years ago, I proposed to call these two kinds of technology « global », and « local ».
Science ? Indeed this means only knowledge, and we shall distinguish clearly among the different kinds of sciences. There are sciences for humans and for societies, and there are « sciences of nature », i.e. physics, physical chemistry, biology... For example, molecular gastronomy is a science of nature, not technology, not cooking (in particular, it should not be confused with « molecular cooking », or with « note by note cooking », as we shall see later).
Sciences of nature ? Their method is known, since Francis Bacon (to put figures everywhere) and Galileo Galilei (make experiments, think that the world is « written » in mathematical language). Indeed the whole method lies in : (1) observe a phenomenon ; (2) quantify it ; (3) summarize the data into synthetic laws ; (4) look for the mechanisms behing the laws ; (5) test the experimental consequences of the theory, in the hope that you will find how it is wrong. Indeed, this last characteristic of quantitative sciences can make us very optimistic about innovation : as science will have no end, always improving, it will bring new knowledge, of which talented engineers will make innovation. Yes, we can have faith that science will give the basis for innovation at all times... and this is why our educational programmes at FIPDEs should be always linked to the more modern scientific knowledge.
Excellence, creativity, innovation... At this point, we have to discuss the question of excellence, because this word is in every mouth, those days, in the academic circles as well in the industry. In the end, nobody trusts the word... but if we don't say it, about FIPDes, we have the risk to be considered as less than others. And we are not, on the contrary. I know that teachers and students together do their best, in order to make a lively community of knowledge and skill ! I know that the FIPDes students are strongly selected, among hundreds of candidates. I know that their educational programme is very full.
But all this are words. The best demonstration of the excellence of FIPDes is to be given during the FIPDes Day : the proof of the cake is in the eating. Here, there should be two demonstrations : one about the content, and one about the communication skills. Are not engineers specialists of working in teams, of dealing with the complex human material. Of course, technical skills are important ; of course scientific knowledge is the firm ground on which technology can rise, but humans, wonderful humans... If we want to built a boat, let's learn to dream about the infinite sea...
Finally, I would like to insist, about the « engineer ». Remember that Leonardo da Vinci was of this kind, always considering possibilities in the world, always trying to understand, in order to do ! For example, how could he draw trees better than others ? He analyzed that the sap was a liquid, and that liquids cannot be compressed : the rate of sap before the separation of two branches should be equal to the sum of the rates in each branch, and this leads to a particular law, in terms of diameters of the branches, on pictures. He could spend hours behind a bridge, just looking at the vortices of water, in order to understand how to represent them, i.e. trying indeed to understand liquid flows, are the visual representation is one key component of understanding in general.
Concerning innovation, also, the world is sometimes worn. But for us, at FIPDes, it is not. It's not a sole word, but also methods, a certain way of thinking... For innovation, one needs culture, and more precisely a culture of innovation. Of course, very modern courses are needed, as this particular example shows. Imagine that you teach the «laws » of sedimentation and creaming, so important in the food industry. If you just explain how to solve the equations of motion, you teach a knowledge of the XIXth century, and the innovation that one can base on it would be XIXth century technology. If you decide to teach statistical physics, instead, then you reach Xxth century technology... but if you teach some results obtained after Boltzmann, i.e. quantum mechanics and numerical methods, then you move into the XXIrst century, and this is what we have to do. In this case, students can have the basis for real innovation. Education should be linked to lively scientific research !
Of course, today, engineers have to know a good deal of science, but they need more, for sustainability is a key issue. Moreover, companies are no longer run as before. There are new challenges, and we have to envision the future with more intelligence than by sticking only to technical questions.
In this regard, it's important to recognize that food is not only nutrients, but also has an art component, as well as a social one. The FIPDes community is clearly recognizing this, and we have faith that, all together, with the specific intelligence of all, from students to teachers, including administration, partners, we can envision a bright future about food !