INTERVIEW. Laurent Lemaître, co-founder of the Reunionian company INTEGRALE, plans to go international

Hi Laurent, you are the co-founder and director of Intégrale Ingénierie. Can you explain to us the purpose, missions and services offered by your company?

INTEGRALE is a building engineering design office, specialized in the design of buildings in tropical environments, from housing to industry, including the tertiary sector. Our function, associated with the project architect, is to design, dimension, budget and carry out the technical work of the building, integrating the client’s process in its construction.

Since 2004, the year of its creation, INTEGRALE has been structured in divisions, creating expertise and at the same time strong bonds of trust with its customers. The Design Office offers a multidisciplinary offer in Structure, Fluids, Electricity, VRD, Fire Safety, BIM, Environmental Quality and includes a branch specializing in Energy Management. INTEGRALE has 45 employees in Reunion Island and around 70 across the Indian Ocean with a presence in Mauritius, Madagascar and Mayotte, and is gradually developing in Africa.

You were born in South Africa, grew up between Mauritius, Iran, Iraq and Cameroon, before studying civil engineering in France. You also spent 18 months in Slovakia, then in Uzbekistan as CSN, then in your professional life you lived in Lithuania, Poland, Turkey and Ireland. However, it was at Reunion that he created his business. Why this choice?

In 2003, then an employee of THALES E&C, I was sent on a synthesis mission to the University Hospital of Saint-Denis in Réunion. My goal until then was to be an itinerant expat, as my father was for most of his life… the Paris region, which I had left 3 years earlier… For me, it was out of the question.

A schoolmate, who lived in La Réunion, had just created INTEGRALE a few months before and invited me to join the adventure. I really liked the island, I had just started building a house. I stayed there and tried to create a business on this very dynamic island, where people are at the center of all developments. We were 3 at the beginning. Today we complete 70 years, happy and proud.

My family grew up on this island and my children (the last of whom was born in Porto) are very attached to it. The countries in which I lived (and which I will not forget) still allow me to better understand international trade relations, the driving force behind the development of exports.

I would also like to point out that you are president of the Club Export Réunion and of Synter (a union of design offices). Explain these quests to us, what do they bring to you?

The Reunion Export Club, which I presided over for 4 years, is an association that has supported Reunion companies in their international development for over 20 years. We offer a complete range of individual and collective support adapted to the needs of Reunionian companies to facilitate their export and contribute to their growth in foreign markets, in particular in the Indian Ocean area We organize collective missions abroad every year for our members whose objective is to promote and develop the opening of foreign markets to Reunionese companies.

Synter, which I presided over for 1 year, is an association that aims to bring together Project Offices, Consulting Engineers and Construction Technicians, Public Works and Related Industries in a professional and union body. Its purpose is to defend its members before other professional social groups and the Administration, represent and defend the interests of its members and the profession both before administrative authorities and before administrative and judicial courts. The association works with French national union groups such as SYNTEC and CINOV.

These functions allow me to get to know and help local structures in their regional and international development. I believe that I must give back to Réunion a part of what this island has given me… I must point out that I am also president of an APM club in Réunion, a French association of 8,500 business leaders for the personal and professional development of the Manager.

You have been supported by Team France Export through two systems: VIE and B2B. Can you explain these two devices to us and what they brought you?

As a former CSN, I knew the VIE system and its advantages, both for the volunteer and for the company. Being VIE means, for a young person under the age of 28, working for a French company abroad, for a maximum period of 24 months and acquiring exceptional professional experience. When creating our entities in Mauritius and Madagascar, we created the VIEs, which manage the start-up of companies and projects. These young people were later hired by the entities as they were naturally the most suitable for the functions.

As far as B2B collective actions are concerned, we were able to find, within the scope of discovery missions in the various countries of the East African area, many client or partner companies, crucial stages in the commercial development of a company. Without these systems, which are supervised and coordinated by Team France Export, our export development would probably not have been possible!

What are your development plans for your business?

We intend to establish ourselves in East and West Africa, with local partners in Joint-Venture, in order to transfer the important know-how developed by the Reunionese Design Offices in terms of construction project in tropical. We are also studying an establishment in the West Indies and/or the Pacific. We are also open to partnership proposals. We have made a strong digital shift in recent years for all of our projects, which also allows us to currently work on new building design and management tool offerings.

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