As a child, Sébastien Oger was a great fan of miniature trains. Today, his playground is that of innovation: as Mobility's Technical and Innovation Director, his role involves devising tomorrow's transport solutions, exploring the challenges of electrical mobility, and thinking about the energy transition.
What is your background?
Following a technical diploma (DUT) in industrial IT electrical engineering, I studied at the École Centrale de Nantes. Then, after my degree, I carried out my military service in the mountain infantry.
Tell us about your career path to date.
I started work in a family-owned company specialising in the automation of special machines in the foundry sector. From the programming of PLCs through to commissioning, this role provided me with an overview of the entire production line. Heeding the call of the mountains, I then joined Poma-Otis as an Instrumentation and control development engineer working on a cable-driven metro system for Zurich airport.
In 2003, Cegelec Centre-Est contacted me to develop the Transport department, with the launch of the Clermont-Ferrand tramway project.
Following this project, an Operational Safety department was created and I was asked to manage it. Thanks to the global view that this affords me, I was able to work on various proposals as a system engineer.
In 2014, Mobility's Technical and Innovation Department was created and I was entrusted with its management.
What does your job entail?
I am responsible for coordinating urban rail, railway, road and tunnel engineering services. I provide an external perspective on the technical choices made for proposals and projects.
I also assist the business departments with innovative proposals, offering my support for their innovation development ideas. To this end, I take part in various working groups at Vinci level. My role is to feed current innovations and the corresponding issues and challenges back down to Mobility's business departments.
I am also responsible for commercial development support during the pre-sales phase of major international projects. For example, I coordinated the technical proposal for the Montreal metro, as well as pre-sales for the railway line between London and Birmingham, the Liège tramway, the Reunion Island tramway and, more recently, the renovation of the Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine tunnel in Montreal.
Lastly, I chair the Innovation and Perspectives Committee, which is an in-house body whose role is to envisage the Mobility of tomorrow, in collaboration with employees.
Can you tell us more about this committee?
The idea is to offer employees from all areas the opportunity to break down barriers and engage in more open debates.
We have already held working sessions on the following subjects:
- Improving pedestrian safety in transport environments;
- Sharing knowledge within Mobility: this discussion resulted, for instance, in the creation of the PLIM training programme.
Subjects currently on the agenda are:
- Taking environmental factors into account in transport (eco-design of systems, urban logistics, electric mobility, car-sharing);
- Open innovation: how to work with start-ups
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I particularly enjoy the interaction and sharing of knowledge with colleagues, being able to pass on knowledge and learning in return. Discovering other cultures is also very rewarding. In Montreal, I was part of a multicultural team. This requires the ability to adapt and integrate, which is a very interesting facet of my role.
When I was a child, I loved miniature trains and now, my playground encompasses locations such as a tunnel in Peru, a tramway in Luxembourg, and a highway in Russia! Ultimately, I started out with a diploma in robotics and have come full circle, back to playing with trains and cars.
What are the current innovation issues in transport?
We are moving towards the end of individual cars, which will be replaced by fleets of shared vehicles and mobility as a service (MaaS).
This will revolutionise our cities and modes of transport: electric buses and shared self-driving cars will free up traffic flow and regulate air pollution.
However, we will have to find other levers for the energy transition. The life cycle of batteries, which for the moment have a huge carbon footprint, must be taken into account. At present, when a battery can no longer be charged to more than 70% or 80% of its capacity, it is deemed to be no longer operational for transport systems. We have to find a second way of putting these batteries to use, perhaps for the storage of energy generated by wind turbines or photovoltaic panels, for example. These are the subjects on which Mobility is already working with its partners within the VINCI Energies group.