illustration Fabrice Marty: Enduring dedication

4 min

Fabrice Marty: Enduring dedication

Fabrice Marty, INRAE’s Deputy Director General for Resources, joins the new Institute after his previous post as the Deputy Director General for Research Support Services at INRA. He has been a loyal INRA staff member for more than 20 years, getting his start in research at the Institute with an economics thesis on quality designations of origin. With stints as advisor to the President-Director General in 2001, Director General of the GEVES public interest group in 2004, and Director of Human Resources since 2012, he has built his professional career through varied and impactful experiences within and outside the Institute.

Published on 03 July 2017 (date.last_update 27 December 2019)

Managing decisions with an impact on 10,000 employees

“I love this organisation!” His enthusiasm comes out in his lilting accent from Ségala, in south-western France. His dark eyes light up, his face opens, and a sudden smile spreads across his face. When he talks about INRA, Fabrice, who was named Deputy Director General of Research Support Services (DGDAR) after five years heading up the Institute’s HR Department, lets his guard down... if only briefly. But it is long enough to reveal the deep attachment he has developed over the course of his career, beginning in 1995 with his economics internship director Bertil Sylvander at the INRA centre in Toulouse. Although this grandson of a seed producer from Aveyron grew up in the small town of Rieupeyroux, he knew there were big things in store for him already in high school in the mid-1980s.

Looking out for the greater good

While Fabrice’s professional life took him away the Institute at various times, he always came back. At age 48, he began a four-year term as Director of HR, overseeing an impressive contingent of 2,000 employees. “The common thread of research support is the implementation of the Institute’s scientific policy,” he explains, straightening his shoulders as though to give his words more weight. “It requires investments, hiring, managing the budget for a four- or five-year period, being responsive and in close contact with the units... These analyses and concerns will guide decisions with an impact on the Institute’s 10,000 employees.”

As he gets ready to settle into a new post after having overseen INRA’s HR development action plan, the Institute’s frame of reference since 2012, he says, “Workplace quality of life, mutual trust, common interest – I really believe in good HR practices. I’m proud to have led the HR Department’s strategy. I’m going to miss the teams and the network.” He calmly lays down the cards that gave him the winning hand when he was chosen from among 21 applicants. Fabrice has two other cards to play that make him a true asset to the Institute: “Genuineness and friendliness. I’m always direct, it’s just how I am. I think the unions and my staff get that, and I won’t change.”

Preparing for two transitions

He shows no signs of apprehension about leading the Institute through two major upcoming transitions with regard to digital technology and the relocation of 13 laboratories to Saclay. “The time frame and preparations aren’t variables. They have to be respected. We have to plan everything from scratch: design, tools, leadership.” His tone becomes more serious. “We need to be prepared, empathetic, transparent. We must make the right choices and explain why things are being done – the purpose of the process, the schedule, etc.” He may not be nervous, but he does understand the risks.

When he was involved in creating the Joint Research Units (UMR) at the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, he was 30 years old – and the youngest ministerial advisor under Jospin’s government. He was in charge of GMOs, and later was advisor on consumer behaviour and fraud prevention for Marylise Lebranchu. His thesis dealt with handing uncertainty in geographical designations of origin, and he learned to see risk as more of a partner than an enemy.

Participatory management and risk management

At 35, he became CEO of GEVES (Study group for varietal control and seeds) and worked in direct contact with multinational companies to reorganise the group and relocate it to Angers, France. Such fast modernisation requires a real desire to move forward, a thick skin and an ability to keep a cool head. At the time, Fabrice instinctively adopted a coaching mentality and immersed himself in the great blues standards. He worked gradually, patiently and often on his own in order to solidify the foundation for change instead of falling back on urgent stopgaps, disappointment and frustration.

His move into human resources was a natural shift in a meticulously “planned out” career of a high-level civil servant, experienced in dealing with the authorities, power plays and behind-the-scenes negotiations. It was a logical choice for this engineer by training (1), who chose to set a new course in 2020 for INRA’s 10,000 employees, following in the footsteps of François Houllier, under whom Fabrice served as Deputy Director General for Science and on request of Marion Guillou, INRA’s Chair and CEO until 2012.

Meditation and principles

It is undoubtedly the “why and how” of these decisions and the task ahead that he ponders when he disconnects for a few minutes at the start and end of each day through deep meditation to stay grounded, centred and relaxed. His thoughts turn to his 21-year-old son, who he proudly explains is preparing for the magistrates’ exam in his fifth year at Sciences Po. As he looks back on his own personal journey, he considers how far he has come and affirms his belief in freedom of choice and an appreciation for diversity with regard to both his son and his partner.

When the conversation turns back to work, Fabrice still does not bring up priorities, projects or challenges. He talks calmly about the future of the Institute, mentioning two approaches, which he sees more as principles: participatory management and risk management. Behind these words, which reflect both history and new opportunities, is the same passion that Marion Guillou’s young advisor has had since the early 2000s. He talks about those years with as much enthusiasm as he does his home town. It’s true: he loves this organisation!

(1) Rural, water and forestry engineer, INGREF


Eric ConnehayeTranslated by Teri Jones-Villeneuve


Fabrice MartyDeputy Director General for Resources