Seated around a coffee, they are happy to meet again. Even if they never really cut ties. “We are a large community of IBM alumni”shares Jacques Gros, former director of the La Gaude site (from 2003 to 2008), with a forty-year career in the American firm.
The recent articles published in our columns about the future of the old IBM site have revived some memories among its “last witnesses”. And made them want to talk. To tell.
To remember the great years. IBM in the Gaudish landscape. Golden age. The stories. Three-voice interview with Jacques Gros, Cuong Ngo Mai (former engineer) and Robert Cohendet (engineer, project director).
What made you want to react, reading the recent articles written in our columns on the IBM site?
Jacques Gros: IBM has radiated at the regional level but also at the global level. It’s not just architecture or buildings. The media often only talks about that. IBM was at the forefront of technology and participated intensely in local economic life.
But you must have an opinion on the future of the site…
Jacques Gros: Yes, I would have seen a European center for medical research on vaccines and future pandemics. The building is partitioned, that would be doable. This center has been an example for technology, it could become one for health, and radiate at European or world level.
Cuong Ngo Mai: It would be possible yes, but there is a rivalry today between Nice Meridia and Sophia Antipolis, held by political rivalries. Everyone is trying to pull the blanket on their own and I’m afraid La Gaude won’t be able to win against that. We are entering the 4th industrial revolution with artificial intelligence, computer science, etc. It would really be a dream for La Gaude to be able to participate in these innovations.
Among the projects mentioned, we heard a hotel complex. What do you think ?
Jacques Gros: That would be a mistake! Have you seen how compartmentalized it is? Put rooms? It’s very small… No, it must remain in innovation. It is an ideal setting for creation. An architecture center has also been mentioned, and that would be really good.
Is there an anecdote that marked your career at La Gaude?
Jacques Gros: The inauguration of the e-business solutions center in 2004. There were a lot of people… We were the first to have this unique international center, before the Americans and the Chinese. It was a center of innovations on the uses of computing and not on products. An area of 2,000m², with a hospital room, the living room of a house with its kitchen, a warehouse, etc. Customers were shown the use of computers in their trade. Many companies have taken this model as an example.
Cuong Ngo Mai: What struck me was that we really experienced what is called “the third industrial revolution”. The beginnings of the Internet.
Robert Cohendet: For me, it’s the day we moved from simple local responsibility to functional responsibility. Europe, United States… We took on another dimension.
Did you fight against leaving the Gaudish site?
Jacques Gros: I braced myself against the departure of La Gaude. Fortunately, this e-business allowed us to stay five or six more years. I remember that I asked the mayor of Nice at the time, to create a road which would join the site from the plain of the Var to justify all the more that we stay there.
Robert Cohendet: Me, I met my wife in La Gaude and she came from a family of winegrowers. My parents being horticulturists – florists, it made me want to go into the agricultural field. So when there was the departure, I had already retrained. But I was and I still am part, like my friends here present, of the CARA association (Club of former retirees and active) of IBM. And I’m interested in his future.