The BRGM's environmental testing centre (Orléans, 2000). © BRGM

PRIME, PLAT’INN and MIMAROC: three experimental platforms to boost innovation

Developing partnerships and services for economic players in the environmental, circular economy and energy transition sectors is one of the BRGM's main goals, which is formally set out in its performance contract with the State. This strategic choice is reflected in the creation of three new experimental platforms, PRIME, Plat'Inn and Mimaroc.

Hervé Gaboriau, the BRGM's Laboratories Director, explains, "Experimentation at different scales has always been a core activity at the BRGM. As early as 1975, we set up a 2000 m2 experimental facility - a mini industrial plant that was initially dedicated to mineralogy and the development of various innovative processes and technologies in that field".

These areas of activity evolved along with the BRGM's missions, paving the way for new platforms.

Between the laboratory and the industrial pilot phase

"The BRGM is now looking to launch a new phase in the dynamics of its relationship with economic activities", says Hervé Gaboriau, "by offering facilities that provide the missing link between laboratory research and industrial activities on the ground".

In reinforcing its experimental capacities, the BRGM is also strengthening its capacities as a Carnot Institute to support SMEs, SMIs and their value chains, but also to enable major clients to conduct or commission Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) programmes with equipment they do not have in-house.

"The BRGM", explains Hervé Gaboriau, "is strongly positioned in fields that address major issues and have high potential for innovation. Our experimental platforms are a reflection of these ambitions". Plat’Inn, for example, focuses on ecotechnologies for the circular economy. This is a platform dedicated to processing and recycling mineral resources and waste as new sources of raw materials, and will offer treatment capacities ranging from a few dozen kilograms to nearly 5 tonnes.

PRIME focuses on environmental engineering and metrology, developing and validating new metrology systems, environmental management and remediation solutions for soils, subsoils, aquifers and sediments, and developing ecotechnologies and associated services. The platform will form the core of the Pivots scheme federating a series of platforms for innovation and optimisation in environmental technologies, which is supported by the Centre-Val de Loire Region (ARD 2020: Ambition, Research and Development 2020; and the State-Region Planning Contract.

Mimaroc, finally, is investigating uses of the subsoil for the energy transition and climate change mitigation. This platform focuses on CO2 storage, energy storage and geothermal resources (and supports the current geothermal platform where the performance of heat exchangers is being tested and innovative tools are under development - see last page). In particular, Mimaroc will be handling projects developed by the Géodénergies scientific interest group, of which the BRGM is an active member.

Objectives for 2018 and 2019

Setting up these platforms will redeploy existing facilities, with the extension and redevelopment of the pilot facility for Plat'Inn (1000 m2), and PRIME (1000 m2) and create a new 250 m2 laboratory for Mimaroc. Each platform will be equipped with innovative multi-scale experimental facilities, and will absorb a  total budget of about €11 M for building work and equipment.

The installation of Plat'Inn and PRIME is planned for completion in 2018, and Mimaroc in 2019.

"Setting up these projects required close cooperation and substantial funding from local government bodies at different levels, and close involvement from public and private partners, especially those in the Pivots programme, such as the CNRS, INRA, the University of Orléans, the Antea Group and the Dream Competitiveness Cluster", adds Hervé Gaboriau. "This federating and partnership-based approach reflects a second goal, which is to support the Region's development and external reach".

A multi-metric experimental pilot for PRIME, a research and innovation platform for environmental metrology. © BRGM - H. Fournié

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