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Alexis Nicolaÿ PhD defense

Conception innovante de lignées de services complexes dans l’industrie d’armement européenne

Thesis to be defended on the 22nd of december at 10:00am  at Association des anciens élèves et diplômés de l’Ecole polytechnique (AX), 5 rue Descartes,75005 PARIS


In this research we look at a singular object: lineages of complex services design. We study this object in a context singular in itself, which is the European Defence Sector. Each of the above terms raises questions: what are services in the defence sector? What makes them complex? What is a service lineage? The services we look at are characterised by the duration of the relationship, to be counted in decades, without measure with the ones most commonly studied. The complexity of the ecosystem of actors – comprising public and private sectors – and that of the underlying products and systems – e.g. missiles systems, fighter aircrafts or nuclear submarines – also contribute to the originality and the value of the object of our research. The concept of lineage, rooted in the innovative design of products, is best described by the interplay between the succession of projects and the accumulation of knowledge. Here again, both dimension are most often overlooked in service research. In our perspective of service design, our first questions call for two others: how to describe such services? and how to organise the design functions in such manner that new knowledge is created and shared to allow co-design and co-production of the service by the whole ecosystem of actors?

Our research was conducted in close proximity with the actual field. Fully integrated within the organisation of a major player in the European defence sector (as per a CIFRE convention), the researcher was hands-on with several innovative service design projects and confronted with the above questions on both theoretical and practical perspectives. These projects are at the heart of our research, together with a comparative case study of defence services in France and the United-Kingdom. To that effect, a six months visiting PhD period was conducted in the University of Cambridge.

Although being rooted in a singular context, our research bears more general insights for academia and practitioners alike. Coming from the case material and used to shed light on it as well, our ‘Dynamic Analysis of service value Referential ‘, dubbed ReADy, is the main theoretical contribution of our work. By the tension it introduces between its two components – the concept and the contract – it contributes to the description and design of the successions of service projects. With the concept of ‘learning communities’, together with ReADy, we shed light on the main knowledge creation mechanisms at work when implementing a lineage of complex services.

Keywords: Service design, innovation, service lineage, defence


Pascal LE MASSON Professeur, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris Rapporteur
Faïz GALLOUJ Professeur, Université de Lille 1 Rapporteur
Sylvain LENFLE Professeur, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers / Ecole polytechnique Directeur de thèse
Christophe MIDLER Professeur, Ecole polytechnique Examinateur
Jean-Michel CHIQUIER MBDA France Examinateur
Julien PORCHER MBDA France Examinateur