Industry, Design and Social Innovation

The “Industry, Design and Social Innovation” Research Chair, is the first to be created in a French Graduate Art & Design School – the ESAD de Reims. The Research Chair is a creative platform, supported by the Région Grand Est and by the Ministry of culture and communication.

Led by Véronique Maire, designer, the Chair brings together in a novel manner, on a regional level, academic research structures and actors in production – SMEs, industries and craftspeople from the territory – and the Chair fuels these different stakeholders with the culture and the methodology of design. The research is centred on practices and aims to help sectors of innovation to emerge, to allow the creation of new industrial or craft objects, and to diversify productive activity in the region.

In this context, the ecosystem of the different actors, defined by the territory under consideration, takes on its full importance, with both the level of skills and with knowledge. Sharing is no longer a type of interaction but the very basis of production. Through the application of the notions of innovation and production to the fabric of industrial and crafts activities in the Champagne region, the designer is the mediator and producer of the forms that innovation can take.

The team of the IDIS Chair

The team of the Chair is composed of a tenured professor, accompanied by young designers-research engineers in residency for projects with a duration of 6 months to one year. The team is completed by guest researchers from the academic world.


From left to right: Audrey Bigot, Jules Levasseur, Véronique Maire, Bastien Mairet, Luce Aknin


Véronique Maire, designer and professor

She began her career as a designer in the Andrée Putman design studio where she was responsible for the development of products and domestic furniture. In 2001, she cofounded the IK Design studio and then her own design office in 2006, emphasising her interest for expertise and the universe of the table. In 2014, she launched her own brand of objects for the table entitled mamama, in order to deal directly with the problematics of production and distribution.
Working with the ESAD Reims for 10 years now, she supervises Design Master students and guides them to align themselves within specific problematics. She followed research projects around self production in the form of workshops with SMEs and manufacturers from the Region such as La Fonderie Rollinger, the company Arkema or also the Fédération Française de la Tannerie Mégisserie based in Paris. Some of these led to productions of series. Through her work with the Chair, today she continues this collaborative work by setting up research projects with diverse local actors |


Audrey Bigot, designer

The use, the materials and the forms of her productions all emanate from a source of simplicity, justice and the economy of means. By this inclusive conception, it is important to take into account the context in which the object emerges and the social and environmental consequences of its production.
Within the Chair, she has developed the network of professionals in Champagne Ardennes and has met with the companies, the organisations and the institutions in order to create a map of their skills. | mapping of the IDIS ecosystem

Jules Levasseur, designer

Seeking to bring a fresh look at the professions of crafts and industrial production, he is committed to revealing the unexplored potential, both practical and artistic, of workers expertise and of industrial materials. In this manner, the notion of work is at the centre of his research.
In the context of the Chair, he has produced new elements for covering with biosourced materials, with the support of the pole IAR and the BatLab from CoDEM. He also participates in the training of the Compagnons du Devoir carpenters, stimulating future craftspeople’s capacity to collaborate and opening up possible areas in this still very traditional profession. | Folie végétale

Bastien Mairet, designer

After technical studies, he continued his studies in the ESAD Reims, with one sole obsession: movement. Passionate about the work of automaton makers and their knowledge, which brings together both noble materials and mechanic solutions, just as much as robotics and new technology, he draws inspiration from this universe for the design of his own objects.
His work for the Chair consists in cartography work for the website. He will also participate in the innovative workshop INNOV’ACTION, with the not for profit association Lire Aussi, the national centre for musical creation CESARE, the Living Lab Activ Ageing and the Tech-CICO of the UTT of Troyes. | mapping of the IDIS ecosystem


Alexandra Borsari, doctor in political science

Researcher in anthropology, an associate of the CoDesign Lab of the Télécom ParisTech and Doctor in political sciences (UPEM, 2010), Alexandra Borsari’s research focuses on the connection between nature and material and in relation to objects. Her anthropological approach borrows from the anthropology of techniques, particularly with its method of biographies of objects, and includes an opening towards design in order to unify the expectations from an academic and entrepreneurial point of view.
A cross reflection between designers and design researchers aims to accompany the actors of different territories in the phase of translating the results. The opening up to design is also a way to renew the framing of the analysis and the methods of investigation.
From the beginning of 2014 and up until the start of 2016, Alexandra Borsari has worked on oxygen as a technical object in the sector of medical technical services in the home. This mission was created with the i-Lab of Air Liquide.
For the IDIS Chair, she participates in diverse key moments of research. She will most notably undertake an observational and analytical work on the evolution of the role, the tools and the methods of the designer when he or she is confronted by collaborative situations with multiple stakeholders.

Olaf Avenati, graphic and digital designer

Graphic and digital designer in Paris since 1997, Olaf Avenati conceives communication objects, publications on diverse supports and digital tools in the cultural and institutional domain. He teaches and coordinates the graphic and digital design department in the ESAD Reims, and intervenes regularly in the Institut Mines-Telecom. He is also a cofounder of the seminar Forms, Technologies, Society, which has questioned, since 2011, the technological fact in its multiple dimensions and most notably in its links to the practice of design.
He has designed the website of the IDIS Chair and the cartography of the IDIS ecosystem, in collaboration with Véronique Maire and Philippe Rivière. | cartography of the IDIS ecosystem

Philippe Rivière, journalist

Since 1997, Philippe Rivière has combined journalism and computing. Previously editor of “Le Monde diplomatique”, he has since then been developing his approach in the domain of cartography, through projects in collaboration with international institutions, journalists, artists, militants for social justice… He also trains journalists, geographers, etc., in working with the web.
This led him to co-founding the website:
For the cartographic work that is being done by the IDIS Chair, he is setting up interactive “machinery” which will allow the exploration of the Champagne-Ardenne industrial networks and the potential or existing relations between companies, schools, researchers and designers. | cartography of the IDIS ecosystem

Issues and objectives


The ESAD has maintained for numerous years regular and fruitful relations with companies in the framework of R&D projects, most notably in the agro-alimentation domain or in the domain of object design and furniture, and with telephone companies for graphic and digital design. These projects are then developed by the partners, or remain in the field of future oriented research. Through a research approach to networking, the school wishes to give SMEs and local companies the benefit of its experience of research work with national and multinational companies.


By the term “social innovation”, we mean the interaction of creation with the social field. By favouring the well being of individuals and collectives, but also because of its “non standard” approach, led by individual actors, social innovation is a value, because it touches on lifestyles, production and uses. Thinking about forms of social innovation, in a Graduate School of Art, is to conceive them, to experiment them, to create them and to produce them.


It is to set up a network, a real “contribution economy”, based on sharing resources and knowledge. By associating Design, Industry and Social Innovation, the IDIS Chair promotes a new position for the designer as:

  • A go-between in the heart of the production chain.
  • A force for technical, artistic and social innovation.
  • A creator of new forms, new ways of producing, new uses.
  • An actor and a go between in fundamental research in Humanities and Social Sciences and applied research in design.
  • A vector for new ways of doing and thinking production.

Practical objectives:

Valorise craft work and industrial production in Champagne-Ardenne by the intervention of design in the production process. Deploy new products and and production scenarios by collaborative projects. Begin a socially innovative approach based on the notion of work, of networks. Develop the role of the designer as a representative of R&D and an intermediate between industrial and craftwork companies, non-profit organisations and the academic world.

Pedagogical objectives:

Reinforce the identity of Master Design, especially in 4th year, around the IDIS Chair’s issues : workshop organisations, conferences, personal projects… Developing pedagogical projects and research with regional academic partners in order to build long lasting and constructive collaborations.

Theoretical objectives:

Imagine social innovation from an analysis of values:  work, contribution, exchange. Requalify innovative practice by questioning methods, objectives and results: what can a company gain from a designer’s approach?
Raise the issue of the relation between heritage/innovation when the production of a company needs to evolve: which part of the production could be subject to a conservation, if not an evolution?

Expected results:

Development of a design course in other establishments in the region. Impact on the integration into the workforce on young designers.
Integration of internships from other higher education institutions into the ESAD and of design students into these establishments.
Inter institutional exchanges of knowledge, project culture and of know how: engineers, humanities and social sciences researchers and designers.
Economic validation of the pedagogy: objects produced by the ESAD.

Calendar 2015-2017


A prospection phase aiming to identify and map out the network of industrial, not for profit organisations and academic actors in the Champagne-Ardenne region. It will be formalised and an interactive website will be created for use by contributors.


A production phase during which research projects are committed to on a pedagogical level, with industries, crafts workers and research centres on the territory. Objects will be produced, study days organised, and a prize from the IDIS Chair will be created in 2016.


A restitution phase finalises the first productions by the IDIS Chair: a publication, exhibitions in the Region and in the international design network (Paris, Saint-Etienne, Milan).