Raphaël Lecomte: using smart solutions to maximize energy efficiency
Raphaël Lecomte is a project leader at Group laboratory CRIGEN (the Gas and New Energies Research and Innovation Center). Having joined ENGIE 4 years ago, he works alongside his project teams to improve building energy efficiency and develop the solutions that will revolutionize energy going forwards.
Smart Solutions Engineer
His specialty is energy efficiency and smart technology solutions.
«I became aware of sustainable development issues at quite an early age.» So Raphaël began with an engineering degree, and graduated from INP Grenoble in 2006 having specialized in mechanical engineering for industrial materials and processes. «I then worked for two and a half years in a small company developing and marketing gas detectors.»
Then in 2010, I went back to school. «My career goals had become clearer to me, and I wanted to specialize in energy.» So Raphaël enrolled on a Specialist Masters program at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers and the Ecole Centrale de Lille to study management systems for decentralized energy generation. On completing his studies, he joined CRIGEN as a research engineer intern.
For three years, Raphaël contributed to a series of different projects, most of them concerned with building energy efficiency and the development of energy consumption forecasting and analysis tools. «I also worked on Smart Energy projects as a contributor to developing smart metering offers.» This work then enabled GDF SUEZ to offer innovative products, services and advice adapted to individual circumstances.
«Ultimately, it’s not smart technology itself that is the most interesting thing, but rather the effective use that we make of it. Smart technology brings an additional dimension to energy efficiency, because it improves comfort and helps us to behave more economically and more responsibly.» So it’s another route to helping us change the way we consume energy.
From operations to management
Eighteen months ago, Raphaël made the transition from research engineer to project manager. «My role now is to manage a team of engineers working on projects initiated by Group Business Units or external customers. We bring an expert view to the technical aspects of the design phase, but we’re also involved in on-site testing, sociological surveys and online development.»
So which areas does he work in? Energy efficiency and smart technology offers for personal and business customers. «My job is to provide guidance for projects, budgets and teams. My first goal is to define the methodology, and then to make sure that the project is progressing along a timescale consistent with customer expectations.»
Raphaël’s job sits at the interface between customers and teams of engineers and technicians. «That’s what I like most about it. On a daily basis, I’m managing customer relations by gathering customer comments and expectations, and in return I provide them with continuous updates on project progress. But at the same time, I’m also here to help and guide the teams of engineers. This diversity of missions and projects allows him a very broad scope of involvement.What makes it difficult, but very exciting, is to have the ability to take an overview of all these projects – even the most technical – and gain a good understanding of them. It’s real mental gymnastics!» For Raphaël, communication with his teams is therefore the biggest contributory factor to project success.
Interaction and teamwork: the keys to technological innovation
As a keen rugby player in his spare time, Raphaël understands what teamwork really means, because it’s something that motivates him in his private life as well as in his working life. «As a project manager, I see interaction and teamwork as absolutely key to success: permanent interaction with customers to identify their expectations and provide effective supervision, and constant interaction with my own teams to deliver successful project outcomes.» The DolceVita Cap EcoConso online service is proof positive of this collective «we». «It’s a service developed for personal customers who want to receive personalized information and advice that can help them reduce their bills. We did some work on the calculation method, and the feedback has been excellent. Customers are happy with the service, and we received an Innovation Award in recognition of our efforts. It’s a really successful example of teamwork!» But teamwork also operates at another level: the CRIGEN level. It’s an enormously dynamic environment and an ideal place to start your career. We have lot of young graduates, which creates an exciting working atmosphere, but we also have more experienced people who can help us to progress.» What makes this environment even more stimulating is that CRIGEN operates as a member of an ecosystem of Group research centers and entities, adding a new dimension to interaction, skills development and opportunities!
At the same time, individual great ideas and innovations are actively encouraged: «You can submit a project to the management committee, even if it’s not on our road map. Time and resources will then be allocated to those projects with really strong potential.» This appetite for challenge is sharpened every year with an exciting competitive event: the CRIGEN Innovation Days. These two days of open innovation and intellectual ferment give CRIGEN engineers the time and space to imagine and prototype innovative solutions to customer problems through group working and interaction.