A (third) place to call our own

When a large corporate opens an innovation Lab these days, it is often considered, at best, as a non-event. At worst, it sometimes reflects a vain attempt to acquire mere outward signs of innovativeness. The fact is that a large number of these “third places” didn’t keep up their promise of creating an environment that is more than the dream workplace for the Y-Generation (yes! free waffles and bacon for breakfast!): a social shaker, a talents mixer, a village square. In short, the brick and mortar extension of the corporate open innovation policy. Or maybe the concept does seem strange precisely because it sounds just sooo French — universal, very chic, but mostly for French people in a French context ! So let’s go back to the word and to its meaning : is a third-place one that’s quite good, but not as good as a first or second place?

Geography and territory: more of a landmark than a lair

A place is first and foremost a geographic location; it’s where a pioneer decides to set up camp and settle. He cuts some trees to build a house, and as new settlers arrive in the neighborhood, the place becomes a village that will sometimes turn into a city…

Leonard:Paris is the open lab and “shaker” that was just launched by the construction Major VINCI. It is located at the heart of the “Arc de l’Innovation” in Eastern Paris: 40 minutes away from VINCI’s HQ, but a stone’s throw away from Station F, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria), Air Liquide’s i-Lab, Renault’s Le Square… We are thus at the center of a game in which most industry players are participating.

Carte de l'Arc de l'innovation parisien

Therefore, a place is firstly a point on a map. It is then also a surface, a territory where we live and move across, and thus is as much a starting point as a destination.

Leonard:Paris highlights the balances between the flows (circulation) and the stocks (accumulation) that define a city: you can experience the place simply by working there for an hour or two, making use of its coworking spaces, or attending a workshop or conference, and you can revisit whenever you like.

It is also a home to those who have chosen it for their base: La Fabrique de la Cité, Leonard, the Fondation VINCI pour la Cité, the Eco-Design Chair, intrapreneurs and, increasingly, start-ups.

Third-place or triple bond?

Then one might ask about the nature of the link between Leonard:Paris and the VINCI Group? In my opinion, this is a triple bond.

Firstly, there is a link between the creator and its work: VINCI has completely renovated and developed Leonard:Paris to demonstrate its expertise. The luminosity of the glass roof, the audaciously designed layout, and even the outstanding audiovisual performances of one of the brightest screen in Paris… all of this enables Leonard to showcase the genius of VINCI!

Intervention de Carlo Ratti à Leonard:Paris

Secondly, for VINCI collaborators, it is a shared workspace that is “outside of the box”, which contrasts with the codes and standards of the headquarters, and that represents an area of freedom and creativity to develop intrapreneurship, but also to conduct prospective work and to open the chakras of all those who come here to think and build the future.

Finally, Leonard:Paris is the physical representation of Leonard, our open laboratory for the future of cities and infrastructure, created by VINCI to explore the transformations of its markets and businesses.

Transversality and openness

For people and minds to meet and mingle, an open place like Leonard:Paris is essential, but it is not enough: we must tear down the walls!

This was the whole point of the inaugural Building Beyond festival, which has enabled, through 24 events that were free and open to the public, the sharing of practical solutions and the generation of new collaborations by gathering together presentations from designers, philosophers, extreme builders, cinephiles, startups and more… It also revealed the place to thousands of attendees.

Conférence de Schuiten & Peeters lors du festival Building Beyond - Leonard:Paris

More broadly, Leonard:Paris is the first place fully dedicated to the future of cities and territories that brings together such a variety of expertise:

  • La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban transitions – which carries out its deliberations and public research with a long-term perspective;
  • Leonard, the VINCI Group’s foresight and innovation programs – which focuses on transforming the Group’s business activities;
  • The VINCI-ParisTech Chair for Eco-Design, a partnership involving three engineering schools (Mines ParisTech, Ponts ParisTech and AgroParisTech) – that conduct scientific research of new solutions to environmental issues in construction projects;
  • The VINCI Corporate Foundation, whose initiatives encompass the social and societal aspects of the livable city.

While most innovations today arise from digital technologies, face-to-face human interactions have never been so significant.

The creation of Leonard:Paris is basically about meeting a need: while most innovations today arise from digital technologies, face-to-face human interactions have never been so intense (as shown by the success and huge attendances at global trade fairs like CES in Las Vegas, or more recently Viva Technology in Paris, or the continuous growth of air traffic…). Although digital projects can be deployed remotely once started, their launch requires entrepreneurs to first meet and bounce ideas off each other.

The bringing together of minds, ambitions and personalities therefore remains key.

The aim of Leonard:Paris is to meet this basic need of localized exchanges, with the aim of being the first step towards something much bigger, whose spirit transcends both the borders of national territories and those of the VINCI Group.

What do we do?

The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.