Skip to main content

Open innovation: a life choice

Thales has built its innovation strategy around openness and collaboration because we believe that innovation needs to be a shared endeavour, and because open innovation is the most effective way to harness the breadth of technologies our customers require.

The strategy works on three levels: innovation with academic research partners, innovation in ecosystems of start-ups, SMEs and other industry partners, and co-innovation with customers.

It makes the Thales Group an integral part of extensive innovation ecosystems that combine the strength of fundamental research by the academic community with the agility of high-tech start-ups.

Innovation with prestigious academic partners

Thales conducts early-stage research at its central laboratories – Thales Research & Technology (TRT) – and in the Group's various competence centres. The teams from TRT have a more broad-based approach to research and technology, while researchers at the competence centres work directly with engineers on more specific sets of technologies or products, depending on business priorities.

However, the competence centres are progressively becoming less focused on the needs of one specific business, and tend to develop solutions – particularly software – for several of the Group's business lines. This is often the case for the competence centres in Romania and India.

All these projects share the same goals:

  • bringing innovations to maturity across the whole spectrum of technologies, with a particular focus on sovereign solutions for customers in our countries of operation
  • developing new product concepts and system architectures
  • creating new engineering tools and methods for critical information systems.

The members of Thales's international network of central laboratories collaborate closely with a number of prestigious academic partners. The TRT laboratory in Singapore, for instance, has worked with Nanyang Technological University and the CNRS (French National Scientific Research Centre) since 2009 in an international joint research unit – one of the few units of its kind to include an industry partner. The laboratory is called Cintra and focuses on the nanotechnologies required to develop nanoelectronics and nanophotonics applications.

In the United Kingdom, Thales has ties to several major universities, including the University of Southampton, the University of Bristol and Cranfield University. The Group is also working on cybersecurity with several academic partners, including the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen's University Belfast, and the London Office of Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA).

In Canada, the Group is part of a number of research networks and has projects underway with the Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO), the University of Toronto, McGill University, Polytechnique Montréal, Université Laval and others. With the same research partners, we have also teamed up with telecom industry leaders such as Ericsson and Ciena to form the ENCQOR consortium, an innovation platform dedicated to 5G technologies.

In France, Thales has a number of strategic partnerships with leading institutions including the CNRS, the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), École Polytechnique, Telecom ParisTech and Sorbonne Université.

The most advanced form of partnership is the joint laboratory; Thales has set up joint laboratories with partners including the CNRS (seven laboratories in all), CEA-LETI (as part of the III-V Lab consortium with Nokia), CEA-LIST for research into artificial intelligence and formal development methods for critical software, and Sorbonne Université for artificial intelligence.

In countries with strong growth potential, Thales is developing its research capabilities as well as its engineering centres. In India, for example, a Thales research team at the Group's Bangalore site is working on open hardware architectures with the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Delhi. The team also collaborates routinely with the Central Manufacturing Technology Institute (CMTI) in Bangalore. 

Innovation ecosystems

  • Joining forces with other major industry players

In striving to meet the technological and societal challenges of tomorrow, the Group is also open to teaming up with other major industry players. Our industry partnerships include the III-V Lab for advanced III-V semiconductor technologies (see above), Software République with Atos, Dassault Systèmes, Groupe Renault and STMicroelectronics, an open innovation ecosystem focusing on smart mobility, and Sinclair with EDF and TotalEnergies, our first joint laboratory with other industry partners in the field of artificial intelligence.

  • Start-ups: the age of reason

Seven years ago, Thales adopted a structured approach to its interactions with start-ups, and created a database of all the young tech companies working with Group entities worldwide. Since then, 2,000 of these companies have been accredited, and we have conducted 200 proof-of-concept* projects with them and incorporated about 20 of their new technologies into our solutions for customers.

We also work with start-up accelerators In France. The Group is the cybersecurity lead for Station F and one of the founding members of La Place Stratégique, a start-up incubator dedicated to sovereign technologies that we set up with the French defence procurement agency, the French defence innovation agency and the armoured vehicle manufacturer Arquus.

In Canada, Thales has teamed with the largest start-up incubator in Quebec, Centech at the École de Technologie Supérieure de Montréal (ÉTS), to create a six-month international accelerator programme for start-ups working in artificial intelligence.

Co-innovation with customers

To fully understand what they expect and tailor our solutions to their specific requirements, we routinely involve customers in co-innovation projects with our engineers and researchers, in particular at our Innovation Hubs in France and Singapore.

Key figures
  • 4 central laboratories
  • 20 joint laboratories with research institutes
  • 50 R&D partnerships in Europe and Asia
  • 2,000 accredited start-ups

*A proof of concept is aimed at providing evidence that a radically new idea, theory, or concept is feasible and can be implemented in practice.