Christian Van Ghelder : still Sophia?
' Sophia is a breeding ground of creativity and innovation that Europe, and even the United States envy us it', the European Vice-President of Lucent Technologies says.
Christian Van Ghelder is somewhat the 'itching powder' of Sophia Antipolis. The European Vice-President of the firm Lucent Technologies, which is the world leader in telecommunications equipment does not fear to say what he thinks. Especially for instance, to denounce the telecommunication networks weaknesses in the technopole. Actually this problem is about to be resolved. This allows to think that it is sometimes very efficient to disturb the tranquility and say aloud what everybody thinks…Lucent development axes since its creation and its important strategic orientations? Christian Van Ghelder:'The wish of Lucent Technologies is to develop on the international markets and especially in Europe. Our growth is made thanks to an organic system but also thanks to purchases and partnerships (for example the purchases of livingstone, Octel and Ascend).The expertise fields of Lucent Technologies are in microelectronics, optical fibers, telephone central, mobile network, data network, software for the telecommunication operators and some integration and maintenance groups. The firm which is the leader on this market had a more than 38 billion dollar turnover in 1999, 40% of which were due to the international.The firm has a great deal of experts gathered together in the 'Bell labs', it has also very good relationships with the most prestigious universities and knows the market perfectly. As far as our settlement in the region is concerned, we arrived in 1998 and we have now about 300 colleagues and a huge partners network.Our specialty is network management software, consumers invoicing software, and some others for the green number, televoting, prepaid cards, e-mail systems…Moreover we have established centers of maintenance and training throughout Europe.''Why Sophia Antipolis as a place for Lucent?' Christian Van Ghelder:A lot of positive factors. Near an international and easy access airport, location on the Mediterranean Belt which makes easier our contacts with Europe (especially with the South), a melting-pot of exceptional know-how in software development, especially subcontractors on the spot, a network of reagent and competent partners (like Cicom Organisation at the CICA and Côte d'Azur Développement) which helped us for our settlement and to quickly develop technological plans in a context really adapted to what the clients desire. The dynamism of the market in which we are working and our growth certainly disturbed some of the local firms that were affected by the growth instead of managing it.During the last months, you told how you were unsatisfied by the slowness of the decision-taking that paralyses any technological initiative, why? Christian Van Ghelder:In the 80s, the local authorities had planned the enormity of the infrastructures and had put in common resources (Telecom 1, optical fiber) dedicated to huge firms.These resources have become conveniences and the economic fabric has changed a lot with a very important development of small and medium-sized firms fighting on the international scene. The infrastructures have not followed the performance/price movement the new economy demands.In front of the situation and the local apathy, we have transferred our investment in Rome, Milan, Madrid and Bonn, where we have opened centers. The one in Rome where we are waiting for the delivery for this summer of a new 5,000m² building, is specialized in Intelligent networks. The Milan one will focus on third generation mobile networks.Nevertheless Sophia remains a breeding ground of creativity and innovation that the whole Europe, even the United States envy us. I have thus discovered very successful start-ups like Realviz or Video Sud Production that have known how to anticipate my needs in the audiovisual sector for example and by this way supply me with high quality services in a record time.In the university sector too, I am developing plans in partnership with students at the Villa D'Arson, at the Edhec and at the Ceram, and really wish we could offer to these ' talent' who constitute Sophia wealth, appropriated means allowing us to 'keep a length ahead' compared to the other European technopoles.