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A career punctuated by distinctions

Published on October 11, 2018
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Award

This has been a special year for Professor Naceur Belgacem, Director of Grenoble INP-Pagora. He has been honoured on both sides of the Mediterranean for his outstanding contribution to research.

PAG_car-belgacem-prix.jpg

PAG_car-belgacem-prix.jpg

Appointed last April as a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France from 1 October 2018, in July Naceur Belgacem received the National Prize for Scientific and Technological research (in the category of “Best Tunisian researcher or inventor residing abroad”) from the hands of Béji Caïd Essebsi, the President of Tunisia.


These distinctions acknowledge his sparkling international career – 32 theses supervised, 250 publications, 8,600 citations, 200 communications, invitations to universities and research units in a dozen countries, etc. – which has been devoted to the valorisation of lignocellulosic biomass.

Naceur Belgacem’s international career began in Tunisia with a baccalaureate and a special presidential prize, followed by a stint in Russia, where he studied for an engineering degree at the Saint Petersburg State Forest Technical Academy – which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2006. Having completed his thesis on bio-based polymers in Grenoble in 1991, he worked in the field of natural fibre composites at the École Polytechnique de Montréal (Canada) focusing primarily on surface, interface and adhesion phenomena. After a short period in industry, he obtained his Research Lead accreditation in 1997 and was appointed as a visiting professor at the University of Beira Interior (Portugal) for three years. In 2000, he returned to Grenoble INP-Pagora, where he was named Professor. A member of the International Academy of Wood Science since 2005 and the Editor in Chief of Industrial Crops and Products (Elsevier) since 2007, he became a Knight of the Order of Academic Palms in 2013. He headed the Laboratory of Pulp and Paper Science and Graphic Arts (LGP2) between 2002 and 2010, and has occupied the top position at the Grenoble INP-Pagora engineering school since 2014.

A champion of biomass valorisation, Naceur Belgacem’s scientific expertise is resolutely focused on the urgent need to find solutions that reduce the environmental impact of human activity: “Stimulated by increasingly audible messages sent out to an ever wider audience during primetime slots, collective awareness is now becoming a reality. This is illustrated by the open war that has been declared against plastic-based single-use products”. Indeed, for citizens who seek lightweight, energy-efficient, non-toxic, renewable and biodegradable products, “plant biomass is an ideal and rational solution to these new economic and societal issues. This is a highly diverse raw material that is available worldwide, making it perfectly placed to solve many serious geopolitical problems”. This is a bona fide (re)discovery. Since the dawn of time, “humans have used this resource empirically to ensure their survival (food, energy, construction materials, tools, etc.). They understood the virtues of the biomass available in nature when used in its pure form, before processing it for more advanced applications, creating various industries including textiles, paper manufacture and the production of cellulose derivatives, such as transparent cellulose acetate films.”

Naceur Belgacem believes that it is “natural for a return to a bio-based model to be a societal objective” and that “any opportunity to partially or totally replace oil-derived products with bio-based equivalents should be grasped”. This is the philosophy that has fuelled his research since he completed his doctorate, when he was a member of the team led by Professor Alessandro Gandini, a pioneer in the field of biopolymers. It remains the central theme of his scientific research both in France and abroad, which he conducts in partnership with industry. It also lies at the core of the training he provides to the young engineers and scientists who are the future architects of a responsible economy.

Excerpt from the award ceremony, July 24, 2018, Palais de Carthage (Tunisia)
President of the Tunisian Republic Béji Caïd Essebsi - Naceur Belgacem


Excerpt from the news 8 pm, July 24, 2018 on TV 1 Tunisia
Interview with Naceur Belgacem

 

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Written by Anne Pandolfi

Date of update October 11, 2018

Grenoble INP Institut d'ingénierie Univ. Grenoble Alpes