PEARL SPOTLIGHT: The Dual Strategy

 

FNR PEARL Chair Lionel Briand has a strategy—and is part of a strategy. The researcher, a dual national of France and Canada who has been living and working in Luxembourg since 2012, is regularly ranked as one of the world’s top experts in software systems engineering.

He is vice director of the SnT, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust at the University of Luxembourg. Briand is surrounded by other experts, who are working on ensuring reliability and security of information technology, and who have close connections to Luxembourg’s private sector.

Why Luxembourg?

Briand’s strategy is to be wherever is best for conducting the most successful research. So, what brought him to Luxembourg? Is Luxembourg’s scientific infrastructure truly mature enough to attract a researcher of such stature to the Grand Duchy, a scholar who has been showered with international awards and distinctions?

“Internationally, Luxembourg is absolutely competitive in research areas such as IT security,” says Briand. “With colleagues like Björn Ottersten, we can conduct our research at the highest level here. Also—at the risk of being cliché and although Luxembourgers have probably heard this a countless number of times—the paths are short here! In next to no time, one can sit down at a table with ministers, the research heads of big companies, and other relevant players to get research projects rolling. That makes Luxembourg especially attractive,” explains Briand, smiling with his arms crossed as he reclines in his chair with his characteristic energy and enthusiasm.

4.6 MEUR PEARL Grant

It appears Luxembourg’s strategy is working: Anyone who can turn a Professor Briand into a pillar of the local scientific community, who can increase and promote the attractiveness of the country to the international research community through hosting a researcher of such reputation, must be doing a lot right. Certainly, Briand’s decision to move to the Grand Duchy was reinforced by the FNR PEARL Chair awarded to him: the grant is well endowed with 4.6 MEUR over five years. Equally important, however, was the fine IT research infrastructure at the SnT. Now that Luxembourg’s investment in Briand is paying off, with him having received prestigious grants, it is easy to applaud both strategies—that of Luxembourg’s research promoters and that of the world-class researcher.

Making software systems reliable, secure and safe

So, what is your research about, Mr. Briand? “My goal is to make software systems reliable, secure, and safe. An aircraft’s autopilot ought to work more reliably than a home computer. A system crash at an inopportune moment could bring about a crash of whole different proportions. And this reliability has to be reliably and automatically tested.” Such testing is Briand’s field of expertise. Complex software systems are now at the core of not only aircraft, but also banks, power plants and governmental institutions.

The research continues with an Advanced ERC Grant

To continue his research on testing complex software systems, in the spring of 2016, Briand was awarded an “Advanced Grant” from the European Research Council (ERC)—one of the highest distinctions Europe awards to researchers. Those who know Briand know that he won’t be hiding behind his computer, conducting his research in solitude. Rather, he is already thinking out loud about how to get industrial partners actively engaged in his projects. That is good for Briand—and good for Luxembourg.

This case study was originally featured in the FNR 2015 Annual Report

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