At the beginning of September, the whole Pollutec team was pleased to welcome Alexis de Gérard as our new Event Director following the departure of Stéphanie Gay-Torrente who left the company early in 2019 after 17 years, having greatly contributed to the show’s development.
In this interview, Alexis de Gérard looks back on his career so far and reveals what we can expect from the show’s 2020 edition.
Alexis de Gérard, tell us more about your career so far
I’ve always been passionate about technology and innovation: I like to understand how things work. I used to dismantle and reassemble anything I could get my hands on, including my first computer, a Commodore C64 I got when I was 12. I studied at the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in Toulouse and my passion then led me to work in various sectors, but always with technological innovation as the common thread.
My first job was with leading technology consultancy firm Altran at the beginning of the 2000s. I set up a business unit there and recruited teams of engineers to work on innovative projects for industrial clients: these included studying turbine blades in the aeronautical industry, research into new materials for the space industry, quality optimisation in the automobile sector and reducing industrial process costs.
Next I joined the Total group to work on a new project to globalise purchasing, where I took charge of the environmental department. My first visits to Pollutec date back to that period. I’d come to meet my suppliers and check out new solutions. Faced with aging equipment requiring major investment (Plan for the Modernisation of Industrial Installations), I worked on improving globalisation and harmonising services. I was involved in different projects such as industrial site remediation, waste treatment and the quality of refined products.
The strong growth in renewable energy sources and the emergence of energy efficiency then caught my interest, which was deepened by numerous meetings with companies from the sector. Many of these took place at Pollutec, whose rapid growth impressed me. It was through these meetings that I came to join Greenyellow, a Casino group subsidiary that had acquired considerable expertise in these fields and had great ambitions in France and the rest of the world.
I was responsible for diversifying their services in the industrial sector with a clear objective: a 20-30% reduction in gas and electricity consumption, to be guaranteed both by contract and by investments to be made, paid for from the savings. I audited many industrial sites with teams of engineers to identify opportunities to save energy and reduce CO2 emissions and initiated several projects as a result. Greenyellow exhibited at the Pollutec show under the name PERIFEM at that time and in fact it won the “low carbon” prize for environmental companies working internationally in 2016.
You’ve been both an exhibitor and a visitor at the show. What does a show like Pollutec represent for you?
Pollutec has been a feature throughout my professional career. In concrete terms, it’s enabled me to identify the equipment, technologies and services that I was looking for, find information about developments in the market and win new business, while at the same time developing strong professional relationships. Pollutec is all about meeting people: a great example of this was probably finding myself, completely by chance, face to face with environmentalist Nicolas Hulot for 90 minutes on the train on the way to the show!
As a visitor, I always relished the opportunity to update my knowledge of environmental issues and the latest environmental solutions in all fields: sites & soils, waste, air, water… sectors that are of course closely interlinked and interdependent. At each show, it’s interesting to explore new themes and follow the crosscutting visitor trails which reveal specific issues from differing perspectives. You often leave with solutions that you hadn’t even imagined. I was also fascinated by the innovations on display – I can vividly recall, for example, a machine that could recycle any plastic waste into ready-to-refine crude oil!
Later, as an exhibitor, I realised the extent to which Pollutec provides a vital opportunity to promote products and services. It really does help spread brand awareness faster and a lot of new business was gained there with both French and international partners from industry and local government.
Now, as the show’s organiser, for me and the team I have joined, Pollutec represents an exceptional opportunity to accelerate future transitions by acting as a sounding board for all the possible solutions to come. A sounding board receives and amplifies vibrations, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. With Pollutec, we’re at the heart of change!
What are the major trends for Pollutec 2020 and what are your aspirations for the show?
There will be a new event at the 2020 Pollutec show: “Pollutec Seas and Coastline” promoting the different environmental solutions linked to the seas and oceans, and to activities at the interface between land and sea. The objective is to draw out specific environmental expertise that addresses the needs for human and economic activities in coastal areas to be environmentally friendly, whilst encouraging marine and maritime activities with greater sustainability.
I also want to reinvigorate the water industry and make it more attractive. The next show could provide the opportunity to implement new ideas, for example by installing new demonstration and innovation areas and spotlighting technological advances in the Smart Water sector.
Naturally, the energy sector is on my radar: energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy recovery and energy storage are subjects central to all environmental questions and Pollutec has gradually taken them on board. I think it will be useful to develop digital investments linked to the energy transition.
We’re also thinking about several other themes:
- We’ve started considering the “Agriculture and climate” theme for the forthcoming years. The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report conclusions, published in August 2019, raise particular questions about the pressure we’re putting our land under through activities such as agriculture and forestry, so I think this could be an avenue for development.
- Meetings have been confirmed with the space industry, focusing on tools aimed at innovation for many companies in the environment industry.
- We’re interested in strategic metals: the flow of end-of-life waste from electrical and electronic equipment, scrapped vehicles, batteries and accumulators may provide an answer to the critical availability levels of some strategic metals.
- Nature is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for sustainable innovation: so we’ll be holding what promises to be very interesting preparatory meetings in the biomimicry
I’m looking forward to seeing you at POLLUTEC between 1 and 4 December 2020 at Lyon Eurexpo to explore all these subjects, and in the meantime I invite you to join our community via our social networks!
Alexis de Gérard has been joined by Vanessa Brizay, Marketing and Communications Director at Pollutec, who also has an environmental background and a long and successful career with IRH Environnement Group, subsequently the Antea Group.