Serge Odof, appointed director of French engineering school ESIReims last December, shares his ambitions for France’s top-ranked packaging development program that is a recruitment pool for luxury brands in France and internationally.
How would you define the school’s philosophy?
We communicate a clear set of values to our students namely that of expertise, solidarity, sustainable development and social responsibility. From a purely packaging perspective, our goal is to teach our student body about smart packaging, meaning packs that don’t pollute, so there is an increasingly strong focus on developments in the area of materials, decoration techniques, processes… Our students have the reputation of being technical experts and it’s our job to keep them on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the research community. They work in project mode alongside their technical studies.
How do you keep your students abreast of innovations in the realm of sustainable packaging?
Namely through our staff, our ongoing research projects and our equipment. One of our labs features a number of high-caliber instruments, such as one that measures the bio-degradability of different materials, a spectrometer (which we purchased in 2019) to determine the exact composition of certain plastic materials and a traction machine that measures how plastics age over time.
Every member of our teaching staff is a researcher as well, which is paramount. The school also has ongoing research projects funded by brand partners in various areas of innovation. A portion of our budget comes from this program. In my case, I'm a physicist by training and am currently studying the logistics and mechanics of product transportation systems.
What is your focus for 2020?
We are currently building an extension that will nearly double the size of the school and will allow us to recruit around 150 more students. This represents an investment of 4 million euros. Other investments include a flatbed printer and a device that measures the permeability and level of carbon dioxide found in plastic materials.
We’re also working on the school’s visual identity and are making changes to our recruitment methods. This, along with the new building, means that we have quite a bit on our plate!
You are also founding ESIReim’s first-ever chair, which will be dedicated to sustainable development?
Yes, we’re very excited about this as it will be the first for us. This person will be the reference for a number of issues: materials, circular economy, environmental logistics, eco-design and assessment as well as eco-marketing, an area where there is a real need for technical expertise. Finding the right person might be a challenge, but we’ll get there, and it’ll probably happen in 2021 or 2022.