A French Debut in America

Pascal Vidal

Pascal Vidal is a professor of information systems management at SKEMA Business School and the first SKEMA US campus Director.

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French business school SKEMA is opening campuses around the world, including a unique venture on the American mainland. Pascal Vidal details the how and why.

Since its creation in 2009 through the merger of CERAM Business School and Groupe ESC Lille, SKEMA Business School’s challenge has been to create a global, multi-campus, fast-growing school. Working closely with international and national companies, it aims to train responsible, open-minded and mobile managers who will be able to:

  • develop successfully in a multicultural context and in a globalised knowledge economy in organisations of any size in any country
  • contribute to the development and sustainable performance of their organisations through their ability to innovate, their technical skills, and their cross-disciplinary and international culture.

Its founders always envisaged SKEMA as a multi campus school, with centres in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The merger created three campuses in France – Lille, Paris and Sophia Antipolis near Nice – and one in China in Suzhou near Shanghai. But the school still lacked an American campus.

With support from the SKEMA strategic orientation committee and its international advisory board, an extensive research study was set up to identify potential locations in America. From this a short list was developed and SKEMA established contacts in this area and began to visit them.

While there is no perfect location, partner or environments, there are combinations of these that are more attractive than others.

After months of careful study, it became more and more obvious that North Carolina, especially the area around Raleigh, was the place SKEMA was looking for, where universities, companies and local authorities worked together to contribute to the development of a knowledge economy.

In particular, Research Triangle Park (RTP), a leading high-tech research and development centre created in 1959, is renowned for its robust economy and innovative work. There are now over 170 companies employing 42,000 workers at RTP.

It also fitted in well with SKEMA’s existing strategy of locating its campuses in top research areas. The Lille campus, for example, is in the Euralille business district and close to the EuraTechnologies and Eurasanté technology parks while Sophia Antipolis is a technology park. In 2010 SKEMA signed a university-level partnership agreement with North Carolina State University (NC State), one of several top universities in the area, to establish a campus in Raleigh.

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