Eager to spread solutions for more sustainable and digital luxury throughout its various business divisions, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton plans to build a new research and innovation center in France.
Housing about 300 employees — including scientists, researchers and start-ups in co-working spaces — the new facility is slated to open toward the end of 2024 or mid-2025 in Saclay, a government-designated hub on the fringes of Paris for schools, labs and research facilities.
“It will be a big facility, but we are not sure of the exact size,” said Jean Baptiste Voisin, chief strategy officer at LVMH, who noted that the group’s chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault is fast-tracking the project, and that a roadmap is already in place for the recruitment of teams and the scope of the center’s work.
The initial focus will be on new materials, bio-technologies and digital and data solutions that lead to greater sustainability.
“We want the research and development center to be extremely product- and solutions-driven,” Voisin said, explaining that a big focus would be on making actual prototypes. “Getting rid of plastics is at the core.”
He stressed that researchers are essential for fully evaluating the environmental impact of new materials and methodologies considering such factors as energy consumption, carbon-dioxide emissions, plastic content and the extent of recycled or waste materials employed.
For example, a host of start-ups recently brought LVMH new materials that could be used as a substitute for leather. After evaluating 15 of the proposals, LVMH officials found that “90 percent were plastic plus something else,” highlighting the need for expert analysis, Voisin said. “It is very easy to find a solution to improve one dimension. It’s very hard to prove you are really improving the full ecosystem.”
Once the center opens, LVMH will have nearly 1,000 employees dedicated to research and development. This includes about 400 workers at an R&D center for perfumes and cosmetics in Saint-Jean-de-Braye, near Orléans, France.
The rest are spread across the group’s various brands and business divisions, which range from Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Dior in fashion and leather goods; Krug and Ruinart in wines and spirits; Guerlain and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna in perfumes and cosmetics; Sephora, DFS and Samaritaine in selective retailing, and Bulgari and Tag Heuer in watches and jewelry.
The forthcoming site in Saclay will benefit from its proximity to an “very dynamic research ecosystem bringing together the world’s best expertise while maintaining a close connection with education and research,” according to LVMH.
It is understood there are about 70,000 professionals concentrated in Saclay, including many of France’s top schools for engineering, science and agriculture.
Voisin declined to say the size of the investment to build the center, however, sources suggest it could range from 30 million to 75 million euros, depending on the ultimate size.
LVMH noted that the forthcoming research and innovation hub in line with environmental initiatives structured a program baptized “Life 360,” with objectives set for three-, six- and 10-year time frames.