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2020, a momentous year for the Air Liquide Foundation

A year marked by the pandemic context and an exceptional activity

2020 was a momentous year for the Foundation, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. It turned out to be one of exceptional activity. Covid-19 became the prime focus of many of the Foundation’s partners, research teams & NGOs alike, in France, across Europe and internationally. The Foundation was quick on its feet, with the full support of its founders and its board, drawing on the trust that existed with many partners, as well as on the network of Air Liquide staff across the world - whether project « sponsors » or « evaluators »- not to mention its central team. The founding members donated an extra € 2.080.000 towards these actions. Much of it has already been granted to projects in 2020.

The Foundation’s Covid-19 initiative covers 2 areas:

1/ Understand how the coronavirus impacts on the human respiratory system.

10 Covid-related research projects are currently supported by the Foundation, either with past partners -French medical research teams in Grenoble, Lyon, Paris- or with new ones -in Barcelona, Spain and in Leuven and Liège, Belgium. The projects started either with the « 1st » or « 2nd » wave. Some should bear fruit as soon as the first half of 2021.

2/ Support emergency-relief initiatives.

The Foundation financed « food, drugs & hygiene product » packages, the sheltering of isolated people, as well as some remote-learning equipment.

The 25 projects range from France, southern Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines to the United States. A third of the partner NGOS were new to the Foundation, brought to our attention by employees of the Group.

The Foundation signed up nearly 40 other projects -adding up to a record 70 this year-, such as:

  • in the scientific field, two projects to improve lung transplants (in Strasbourg & Barcelona), another in Montpellier, France, to increase the lung function of patients with chronic bronchitis, as well as an educational projects, in France, to inform the public about the many unsuspected characteristics of air. 
  • in community-support, youth-training schemes targeting technical jobs were most prominent, as 15 « micro initiatives » and 4 full-blown partnerships -the Foundation’s first- were signed; with an additional pilot scheme in South Africa on the way. Other initiatives addressed mainly educational needs or those of people with disabilities in Europe, Africa, India & South America.

Scientific collaboration started in 2018 or 2019 continued this year, the largest being with Université Grenoble Alpes in the fields of air quality, historical climate data and insufficient oxygen (hypoxemia) under high-altitude conditions.

2020 was also an important year in terms of governance, which goes hand in hand with the Foundation’s expansion:

  • a new ethical charter was posted on its website. Ethics are a foundation’s prime concern; all of our projects’ completion is systematically reviewed by local staff of Air Liquide.
  • the project selection & follow-up process was adjusted, with an increased focus on how we follow-up the larger projects, to boost impact, and the replacing of the « project selection committee » with both a scientific committee and a « communities committee ».

We revisited our website, in line with the many recent initiatives of the Foundation, including its « Covid-19 » action.

Finally, we specifically surveyed the shareholders of Air Liquide about their view of the Foundation. Their strong response -more than 6,000 answers were sent in- was an encouragement. They expressed very high support for the Foundation’s work and asked for more information about projects. We thank all participants and assure them that their many answers will be taken into account.

We prepare for 2021 with determination and several priorities:

  • Our ethical behaviour, first and foremost, with particular care given to how projects are structured and controlled.
  • We share the hope that the current health, economic and social crises will abate, while being realistic about the challenges, both 
  • in the scientific field, with the pandemic uncovering everything we still need to know, as well as hopeful new approaches. We must encourage our researchers, and help them accelerate.
  • and in the social arena with many people, particularly the younger ones, having been hit particularly hard. We must be with them, alongside the NGOs, social entrepreneurs and aid programmes, to try out new, impactful, schemes.

Beyond Covid-19 we will put the Foundation’s unique assets to good use, in the service of science and our communities.

Let me thank the many employees of Air Liquide for their unique contribution to the Foundation this year, as well as all our partners: they are all an extraordinary force for change.
 

Yours Sincerely,
 

Jean-Marc de Royere

Chairman of the Air Liquide Foundation

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