Even today, the building remains a big draw for new generations of engineers. Except this breed doesn’t use steel beams and glass to shape the world. They write software to control machines.
Starting this fall, the top two floors of Le Centorial, as the building is known, will belong to GE Digital’s first global “digital foundry,” a collaborative space where coders, data scientists and app developers can incubate new startups and work with customers on new software applications. “The digital revolution involves looking for needles of value in haystacks of big data,” says Robert Plana, the foundry’s first incubation and ecosystem director. “It’s difficult for any company to proceed alone. We’ll use the foundry to design fast solutions with partners, test them and release the best and most disruptive ones into the real world.”
GE has been aggressively seeking new ways to enter the software field for a while. Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, who calls GE the “world’s largest digital-industrial company,” inaugurated the foundry on Monday evening, before GE’s Minds + Machines, which starts Tuesday.
GE spent $1 billion to open a new software headquarters in San Ramon, California, where its engineers developed Predix, a cloud-based operating system for the Industrial Internet. “We’re the only company that will have the machines, analytics and operating systems,” Immelt said. “Europe has the talent and infrastructure to lead a productivity revolution and the digitization of industry must be at the core of this mission.”
The Paris foundry will open in August 2016 and employ 250 data scientists, engineers and designers by 2018. It will be the first in a global network of GE’s digital foundries, stretching from San Ramon and Boston in the U.S. to Dubai and Shanghai.
The Paris foundry will bring tech mavens together to use Predix to develop applications for machines and factories, as well as speed up the development of third-party software. They will also reach out to academics, startups developing software for industry and institutions like NUMA, the first startup “accelerator” in France.
“The digitization of industry in Europe requires not only leadership and investment from companies such as GE and our partners, but also more collaboration between the private and public sectors,” said Bill Ruh, chief executive of GE Digital. “We are building an open platform, where GE’s 14,000 developers can collaborate with our customers and partners to create new applications.”