Low-tech Engineering - a project-based specialisation


In light of today's ecological and social challenges, the "Low-tech Engineering" specialisation aims to train engineers capable of building a resilient and sober world. They will have to design simple objects, systems or services that incorporate technology according to three principles:

  • Useful: A low-tech corresponds to essential needs in the fields of energy, food, water, waste management, building materials, housing, transport, hygiene or health.
  • Sustainable: Resilient, robust, repairable, recyclable. It is eco-designed for optimal ecological and social impact at all stages of its life cycle, from design, production, distribution, use and end of life process.
  • Accessible: Unlike high technology, its cost and technical complexity are not excessive for the majority of the population. Low-tech must be accessible for as many people as possible.

Contribution to sustainable development goals


Learn more about Centrale Nantes' commitment to the 17 sustainable development goals

International students can follow this specialisation, taught in French, via:

  • A double degree programme - Open to international students selected by our partner institutions. Selected students spend two years studying courses from the engineering programme at Centrale Nantes. This usually includes one year of the common-core engineering curriculum followed by one year of specialisation. Double degree students are typically accepted after successfully completing two or three years of higher education in their home institution.
Project-based learning

The specialisation is open to a group of a maximum of 12 students, working full-time on this project from September 2023 to March 2024 (internship thereafter). It is based on a project-based learning.

Centrale Nantes and its partners wish to promote and develop low-tech as a systemic solution for ecological transition. The Low-tech Engineering specialisation was launched in September 2022. Based on project-based learning, the main objective of the specialisation is now to fit out a catamaran using a low-tech approach and technologies, to make it as self-sufficient and low-carbon as possible. Harnessing a wide range of techniques, the project will draw on exemplary scientific rigor to design the low-techs to be prototyped and implemented.

Learn more about the start of the project (in French)

Learn more about the project in 2023/2024 (in French)
Course Content

2023/24 academic year

Course content is adapted as the project progresses. The various technical and managerial disciplines will be taught throughout the duration of the project specialisation. Project-based learning means breaking down the barriers between the various subjects to be taught, and gradually reducing them to make room for implementation.
Autumn Semester Spring Semester
Discovery and exploration of low-tech systems 1 Capitalisation and transfer of low-tech systems 1
Discovery and exploration of low-tech systems 2 Capitalisation and transfer of low-tech systems 2
Low-Tech Project 1 Low-Tech Project 3
Low-tech design and manufacturing 1
Low-tech design and manufacturing 2
Low-Tech Project 2

Download syllabus

Course breakdown

Discovery and exploration of low-tech systems (64 hours)

  • Low-tech approach
  • Trips and meetings with various low-tech players
  • Eco-design, environmental assessment and management methods and tools
  • Physics applied to low-tech: thermodynamics, mechanics, electronics, computing, etc.

Low-tech design and manufacturing (64 hours)

  • Design and prototyping
  • Low-tech materials and processes
  • Low-tech concepts: circular economy, eco-design, economy of functionality, reuse, recyclability, etc.

Capitalisation and transfer of low-tech systems (32 hours)

  • Building on experience and feedback
  • Responsible communication
  • Sharing knowledge and common ground

Project management (32 hours)

  • Responsible management
  • Collective intelligence and change management
  • Agile method
  • Industrialization and market research

Low-tech project (408 hours)

Project highlights

Learn more on the student blog
After the Specialisation

Examples of internships and job offers

Positions offered in 2022-23 to students in the Low-tech Engineering specialisation:

  • Low-tech energy engineer - Les vagabond.es de l'Energie
  • Low-tech engineer - ADEME
  • Low-tech building renovation engineer (Brussels) - Anthropie SC (Hellow)
  • Low-tech and environmental strategy consultant - Anthesis
  • Junior CSR and low-tech consultant - Goodwill-management and Baker Tilly
  • IT eco-design engineer on sobriety and low-tech issues - EDF

Examples of theses

  • Assessing the influence of low-tech on regional resilience: Application to food - Institut Fayol - Mines St Etienne
  • Proposal for a low-tech and resilient user-centered engineering toolkit - Université Grenoble Alpes
  • Faire, face à l'anthropocène: the low-tech movement, between discourse and ecological reconfigurations of socio-technical relations - UTC Compiègne

Student feedback

(in French with English subtitles)
Photo credits: © Low-tech Lab
Published on March 30, 2022 Updated on January 2, 2024