How to manage the finances of an AI research institute?

Idiap’s new Financial Manager, Christophe Rossa, explains us the challenges and specificities of our institute financial aspects. Discover how his 10 years’ experience managing a casino finances is an asset for the Institute.

Being able to change your work environment from slot machines and gaming tables to scientific research seems to be quite a challenge. But for our Institute’s new Financial Manager it looked appealing. We met him after a few weeks to learn more about his job at Idiap.

What is specific to financial management in a research institute like ours?

We have the chance to be involved in a lot of scientific projects. Each one of them is like a small business with its own budget and financial rules. As they are independent of each other, their budgets can’t be used as a single resource for the Institute. It means that I not only have to manage Idiap as a whole, but also as a group of about 60 independent projects per year, keeping the financial track for each one of them. From national to international projects, the main challenge is to be aware of what is going on in the Institute and in the projects. The aim is to ensure that all the various deadlines are respected. You have to be very careful for such a job, especially as researchers depend on my job.

Why did you decide to join us coming from the private sector and what was your impression about Idiap prior to the job?

After working in my father’s company and then in a French casino group, I was looking for a new challenge. This professional environment is not only new, but very stimulating. I am proud to be part of a high-tech institute where teams are eager to move forward. I like the working atmosphere here. It feels like a big company with a very multicultural environment, but on a smaller and more human scale.

I am from Martigny myself and I lived not far from Idiap’s Villa Tissières (editor’s note: Idiap’s first address in Martigny until 2007). The institute always had a fresh aura in our town, looking particularly active and interesting from the outside.

What are the main challenges in the future from a financial management point of view?

The growth pace of the Institute implies that we will have more and more projects to manage. To be able to keep the quality of our financial management, for example for quarterly reports, I will have to establish new processes. The aim will be to optimize our resources and be more efficient while still being able to respond to internal needs.