Georgia Tech Lorraine campus in Metz, France

The 20th anniversary celebration this week of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s campus in Metz, France, emphasized the university’s commitment to global alliances as a means of fostering research collaborations. These collaborations are to extend to traditional fields such as innovative materials and more recent ones such as home automation for the elderly and disabled people.

Known as Georgia Tech Lorraine, the school opened in Metz, the capital of the French region of Lorraine, in 1990 with a master’s program in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. It now offers master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and computer science along with an undergraduate program.

There currently are 220 French and American students enrolled on the Metz campus and more than 2,500 students and 100 faculty members have spent at least one semester there.

“Georgia Tech Lorraine fits well with our 25-year strategic vision,” G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the university’s president, said in a news release issued before he left for France.

“We are committed to fostering international alliances to enhance learning experiences, build research collaborations and promote economic development,” he said. “We believe that the most pressing challenges in business, industry and society cross national boundaries, and by working together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.”

The celebration began June 14 in Paris with Dr. Peterson signing agreements with the CNRS (France’s National Centre for Research) to extend for another four years their joint research unit established in 2006. In addition to its focus on telecommunications and innovative materials, the center will now include research into home automation, especially for seniors and disabled people.

The celebration then moved to Metz in northeastern France where a formal ceremony was held June 15, which drew some 400 people. Attendees included local French officials, members of the French parliament and John Brock, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., an early supporter of the program.

Jean-Marie Rausch, the former mayor of Metz, received the honorary alumnus award from the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, the first foreign individual to receive this honor.

While holding a variety of important regional posts in the Lorraine region, Mr. Rausch was a fervent supporter of the creation of a technology park in Metz focused on the development of telecommunications.

As France’s minister of commerce from 1988-91 and then minister of telecommunications, Mr. Rausch encouraged Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp. to open a campus on the Metz Technopole to educate engineers.

Once Georgia Tech Lorraine was recognized as a nonprofit organization operating under French law in 1989, a building was constructed and opened its doors the following year to five graduate students in electrical engineering and a group of Georgia Tech professors.

While taking place in Metz, the ceremony was transmitted live to the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta where State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox signed a memorandum of understanding between the Georgia Department of Education and a corresponding institution for the cities of Metz and Nancy, also in Lorraine.

The agreement calls for faculty and student exchanges as well as collaborations between French and Georgia high schools to promote French and English.

A letter of intent also was signed between Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Lorraine and representatives of French government institutions to establish the Lafayette Institute, which is to be a center for innovation and commercialization of optoelectronics technologies.

Optoelectronics is concerned with the combined use of electronics and light. The institute will be focused on the development of new optoelectronic technologies in the energy, medical and environmental sectors, among others.

On June 16, students joined Dr. Peterson on a visit to the largest World War II cemetery for American soldiers located in St. Avold, near Metz. That evening an alumni reunion was held at the Travellers Club in Paris.

In the fall, Georgia Tech will actively participate in the “France-Atlanta: Together Towards Innovation Project” that will feature the Lafayette Institute among other initiatives.

To learn more about the Georgia Tech Lorraine, go to www.gtl20.gatech.edu