RTE’s “FabStudio”: when employees innovate their own tools

21 February 2023


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RTE, the electricity transmission system operator, is launching “FabStudio” in 2021, a FabLab open to all employees to innovate and improve their production tools.

Familiarize yourself with new rapid prototyping technologies” is RTE’s aim with the launch of its FabLab. For over 10 years, the company has been committed to putting innovation at the service of its employees. A first initiative was launched in 2011: a collection of ideas was made available to employees to enable them to propose a concept. The approach appealed, and the ideas put forward were quickly studied by a dedicated team, tested and industrialized.

Seeing the benefits of this type of initiative for employees, the company has been testing new projects ever since.

A multi-stage innovation policy

Seven years later, the company repeated the experiment in a new form with the creation of a DevStudio. In this laboratory, employees can be accompanied by experts in the development of digital solutions, software or applications, to improve their day-to-day work.

Following on from this DevStudio, RTE is bringing its little brother to life in 2021, the FabLab, its hardware equivalent. With this facility, RTE provides all its employees with the material resources they need to develop new concepts.

The aim of this new tool is to become an integral link in the company’s innovation chain.

Another brick in the innovation edifice

The FabStudio was created at the same time as the Transfo Campus, Europe’s largest campus dedicated to training, expertise and innovation in the transport sector. The 30,000 m2 site near Lyon is home to RTE training courses and R&D teams. Every year, 8,000 people are trained on the campus.

Right from the start of the project, a dedicated working group was set up, headed by Maxime Pelletier, an RTE employee for 15 years. His in-depth knowledge of the company’s inner workings and challenges made him the ideal protagonist to lead the fablab.

Maxime has a clear head. The FabStudio will enable employees to improve their work tools, build models for training purposes and repair their equipment to extend its lifespan.

“The FabStudio enables everyone to familiarize themselves with new rapid prototyping technologies: laser cutter, 3D printers (plastic and resin), 3D scanner, vinyl cutter … Everyone can quickly implement an idea, a project, an innovation.”

At the opening, Maxime enlisted the help of an external Fab Manager to define the equipment and layout of the space. Today, he is supported by several student engineers and designers, as well as an external service provider. Its mission: to analyze the potential impact of projects proposed by employees and identify the internal sponsors who can speed up deployment.

In 2021, 2,000 people visited the FabLab. In 2022, 60 companies visited the site.

What’s next?

Since the FabStudio opened, many ideas have come to life. A project to reinforce the safety of electricity meter maintenance operatives has been deployed, and a tool for employees working on pylons has been created.

For the team, the sense of pride was tenfold. The FabStudio is a real motivator for employees and their managers.

For the years to come, Maxime is determined to continue leading and growing the “RTE makers” community.

Tips for successful implementation

  1. Be frugal, especially at launch. The aim is to prove itself without mobilizing major resources. It’s important to find the right skills internally in all the company’s teams, in order to raise the profile and visibility of the project.
  1. Communicate and share key figures to embody the place and tell the great stories told by employees.
  1. Choose your team wisely, and focus on employees who understand the company’s inner workings and the issues at stake. This will enable us to identify sponspors and the levers to activate to accelerate projects.

Skills developed

  • Collaboration
  • Frugality
  • Autonomy / responsibility
Adrien Levrat


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