The French Secular Mission (MLF) and the French School of Seville (LFS) are going to build a pilot site in Andalusia: the French center for technology and innovation. Located on the island of La Cartuja, it will be built on a plot of 13,200 m2 at the foot of Torre Sevilla. A point of synergy between technological, educational and entrepreneurial innovation, it will host the new LFS at its heart.
The young French high school in Seville is about to experience a new revolution. Created in 2008 at the request of Airbus to provide schooling for the children of its employees, the LFS now aims to become a place of reference in terms of innovation and education. Far from the 38 children enrolled the year it opened, the LFS now has 330 students and could well double its numbers by becoming an integral part of the future French center for technology and innovation.
This ambitious project has been supported for four years by the French Secular Mission (MLF) and Joseph
Hadjadj, the LFS principal, accompanied by his teams and Maria Gonzalez, the school manager. Thanks to the support of the Junta de Andalucía, the Ayutamiento de Sevilla, the Franco-Spanish CCI and many other partners such as PCT Cartuja (the Seville technological park) or the JRC (the joint research center of the European Union) this new center will come out of the ground at the start of the 2025 academic year. It will house the new LFS buildings but also an innovation center where researchers, students and start-ups will meet. Le Petit Journal interviewed Joseph Hadjadj to find out more about this pilot project in Andalusia.
Joseph Hadjadj has been the principal of the LFS since 2017. Former deputy principal at Salon-de-Provence, he chose Andalusia as his first land of expatriation. He is currently pursuing his second term as director of the LFS and should see the French technology and innovation center project come to fruition before the end of his possible third term.
Le Petit Journal: What is the French center for technology and innovation?
Joseph Hadjadj: It is a center dedicated to educational, technological and entrepreneurial innovation. It will be made up of the French School of Seville (LFS) and a technological innovation centre. This will include a coworking space, a Fablab or an amphitheater and meeting rooms. This technology center will address both LFS students and civil society. The idea is to be able to organize events with startups, students, universities, local entrepreneurs or from France and Europe. With the Franco-Spanish CCI and our other local partners, the idea is to create synergies with French and Sevillian universities, French companies and those of PCT Cartuja, the technology park in Seville. In summary, we want to create a link between high school students, students, researchers and entrepreneurs.
We are even considering other hypotheses for the future. For example, the LFS could offer a post-baccalaureate course, depending on the partnerships we can forge with universities. The LFS has already had a partnership with ADELPHI University in New York since 2020. On this model, the idea would be to think about a kind of preparatory class to offer a Franco-Spanish double degree in engineering, for example.
We thought of something larger than a French high school
What was the genesis of the project?
It all started in 2018. At that time, the MLF asked us to set up a market study to know the future of LFS in the Sevillian and Andalusian landscape. The question arose, because the French high school is housed in the former press building – el Edificio de la prensa – used during the 1992 Universal Exhibition.
The LFS therefore rents premises in a building that was not originally a school. It also shares them with a business school, a public administration and a bar-restaurant. This 2018 study showed that the French high school had real growth potential in Seville if it acquired real sports and cultural infrastructure. It is on this condition that the LFS can be attractive to the public and Sevillian families. Jean-Christophe Deberre, the director general of the MLF at the time, therefore asked us to look for an emblematic site to build a new high school.
After several adjustments in the project, we finally decided to buy land on the island of La Cartuja, the area where the LFS is already located. It was ideal to maintain our roots and our proximity to the PTC, the technological park of Seville. Not to mention the growth potential of this district in which 30,000 people work daily. The Junta de Andalucía and the town hall of Seville helped us a lot in this project. A discussion began again in May 2021 with Miriam Del Campo, the Heritage Director of the Junta de Andalucía, for the purchase of land. And on May 24, 2022, the Junta validated the direct sale of a public plot of 13,200 m2 located at the foot of Torre Sevilla, an emblematic place at the entrance to the city. As this plot has a particular urban use, we had to develop a project with a social vocation. We didn’t just want to build a school. The project for a French technology and innovation center was therefore born. It takes on its full meaning with the local environment of Seville: the joint research center of the European Commission (the JRC) and the technology park are also located on the island of La Cartuja. The demand for collaboration with startups is very strong. This project is also supported by many partners, such as the French Embassy, the director of the technology park Luis Pérez Díaz, the Franco-Spanish CCI and the JRC in particular. This one-of-a-kind center will breathe new life into this plot that has been unused for over 30 years.
We need to find a new economic model
How will this French technology and innovation center be financed?
Funding is fully supported by the Mission Laïque Française (MLF). The estimated budget is between 12 and 14 million euros. We are also open to partnerships. The economic model of the LFS, which is currently financed by the tuition costs of families, will not be sufficient to sustain a center like this. There are no plans to have this investment borne by our parents. We want to find other sources of funding through the organization of events, the rental of meeting rooms, coworking spaces or Fablab. This Fablab could be equipped with printers and laser cutters, 3D printers, etc. Students and entrepreneurs will be able to register, in the form of a subscription, to come and develop projects and benefit from its latest generation equipment. the Fablab will have its own management which will allow it to also be open outside of class hours.
What is the objective of this future French center for technology and innovation?
There is a real shortage of science students. The PCT Cartuja Technology Park and companies have understood this well: they want to promote access to scientific studies for all. Our goal is to open the French technology and innovation center to other schools to work on issues such as multilingualism or multiculturalism. It is also an opportunity to establish exchanges with other establishments, whether private or public. We want to make the LFS a reference establishment and mobilize Andalusian and Sevillian society. Today, the LFS has one class per level. With the opening of this French technology and innovation center, the objective will be to double the number of LFS students to 2 classes per level, i.e. to reach approximately 700/800 students between 2028 and 2030.
Is this project also innovative in terms of teaching?
This future technology center is a rare opportunity for the educational team because it will participate in the construction of its own work tool. We are therefore already thinking about it: the idea is not only to take our suitcases and move our furniture in 2025, but to offer a new educational offer, which is also innovative. With the construction of this new LFS in the technology and innovation center, we will continue to prepare students for the baccalaureate. But we want to go further and take care of the students as a whole, both in the classroom and outside the classroom. So we set up a steering group to build a new educational and pedagogical project. We are already working with Pascale Toscani, a neuroscience researcher. She is the head of the “Grene monde” laboratory. This professional will accompany us for 2 years to reflect on essential themes such as life skills, learner profiles, the resizing of spaces… With the insight of educational neurosciences, this specialist will guide us to redefine our educational offer and take stock of what works or what no longer works with the students in terms of memory, the diversification of learning, attention, or even empathy. Already, the Seville LFS is innovating because it will open a European section in second class at the start of the 2022 school year.