The pandemic tidal wave has sunk global stock markets and becalmed business activities. SMEs have had to navigate these troubled waters with extreme care in order to stay afloat. 10 stories from inside the turmoil. Fitness Long live confitment When the 35 Neoness and Episod fitness centers were shut down on March 15, it was a huge blow for Verona, a fast-growing SME well on the way to becoming a mid-cap company. Verona’s founder, Céline Wisselink (M.99), is nevertheless satisfied with the way she has handled the situation. At the human level, first of all. For the past 12 years, she and her associate, Marie-Anne Teissier, have invested in the recruitment and training of their teams: their coaches are all on long-term salaried contracts, which means they can take advantage of partial unemployment benefits financed by the government. “In the UK, coaches are freelance, and neither they nor their employers receive any state aid. We are lucky to be here!” To compensate its customers, Neoness has offered to extend or upgrade current memberships. It’s also giving classes via social media and its MyNeoCoach app, which provides digital coaching and training programs and can be downloaded free by anyone who wants to take full advantage of their “confitment”. “This crisis has inspired new sports activities of all kinds: at home, outside or within companies, with digital services completing sessions in the gym.” Fitness of the future. Films and urban art Getting the word out Jonas Ramuz (M.14) has one foot in […]
The rocket, first launched 40 years ago, has raised Europe to the ranks of global space-sector leaders. And, Ariane has become number one in...
Although not well known by the general public, Air Liquide has a long history of innovation. Today, it’s one of the century-old companies that are the pride and joy of France’s CAC 40. Its new pet project? Hydrogen cars. It all began in 1902, when two engineers invented a cryogenic process (at very low temperatures, around minus 150 ° C) to separate gasses in the air (oxygen, azote, argon). “The process called for liquefying air, hence the name Air Liquide,” explains Jean-Marc de Royère (H.86), a member of the executive committee since 2000. It was certainly an innovative process, but its applications seemed limited. In the beginning, it was used in welding, which requires argon. In 1907, the inventors turned to Japan, which was in the middle of a war with Russia and needed a great deal of welding to maintain its fleet of warships. The young company required significant investments in order to build factories and market gas molecules, and it was listed on the Paris Bourse beginning in 1913. While Air Liquide was mainly active in the industrial sector, the company continued to seek out new markets. Hydrogen sends the Ariane rocket into space … and removes sulphur from gasoline! From the bottom of the sea to outer space In 1943, the innovative company perfected, in partnership with Commander Cousteau, the first prototype of an autonomous diving suit, thanks to the invention of the regulator (a mechanism that can be used to control the pressure level of gas, […]
Transport that doesn’t pollute as much? When you don’t love oil, you create something else… Philippe Berterottière (H.82) and Bertrand Simion (H.87) Within two years, the luxury cruise line Ponant will be operating a cruise ship that runs on electricity and liquid natural gas (LNG). “Its two fuel tanks contain gas liquified at minus 160 ° Celsius, which it will use to power its engines,” explains Philippe Berterottière (H.82), CEO of GTT, the Engie subsidiary that developed this innovative vessel. And, 20 LNG-powered cargo ships will soon be added to the CMA CGM fleet. The French group is also partnering with IKEA and GoodShipping to test a biofuel that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% to 90%. “This is a global first,” explains Bertrand Simion (H.87), head of the group’s central lines. It’s a significant initiative, since the shipping sector, which handles 90% of worldwide freight traffic, has committed itself to cutting its CO2 emissions in half by 2050. Cécile Villette (MBA.16) Two former PwC consultants — Cécile Villette (MBA.16) and Rihab Jerbi – joined forces with Bérengère Lebental, a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, to launch Altaroad, a start-up specializing in nanotechnologies and civil engineering. Their offering? Mini-sensors set into pavement to register traffic and vehicle weight in real time. Altaroad now has many clients among companies operating industrial sites (construction projects, quarries, ports, etc.), including construction-energy giants like Eiffage. Altaroad sensors also have applications for road networks: the data they collect can be used to anticipate a road’s […]
Julien Dossier (H.95), founder of Quattrolibri, a consultancy specializing in ecological transition strategies, teaches classes at HEC on the challenges of making cities sustainable and just published Ecological Renaissance: 24 Projects for the World of Tomorrow (Renaissance écologique: 24 chantiers pour le monde de demain, Editions Acte Sud). Bio: 1995 Graduated from HEC and CEMS. 1997 Joined the Reuters group and became the sherpa (emissary) for the group’s editor-in-chief in London. 2005 Launched Quattrolibri, a consultancy. 2014 Contributed to “Re-thinking Cities in a Post-Carbon World”, Ademe. 2017 Co-wrote the study “Paris Changes Eras: Toward Carbon-Neutrality in 2050”. 2019 Published Ecological Renaissance, Editions Acte Sud.© Sandrine Expilly “Flygskam”, or being ashamed of taking a plane, is certainly the word of the year in 2019. In general, the transport industry seems to be out of step with ecological transition. Is this sector particularly lagging behind? Julien Dossier: The transport sector is one of the top contributors to carbon emissions, almost equal to the food and construction industries. This sector, which is largely dependent on hydrocarbons, needs to be transformed from top to bottom. “Flygskam” is specifically concerned with air travel, which simply has no place in the transition to carbon neutrality. There’s no magical solution: most of the planes that will be in service in 2050 already exist. Hybrid or solar-powered planes will have only a marginal impact. What we must do is to reduce demand. Taking a plane to spend a weekend on the beach in Morocco is completely aberrant from […]