Observed massive galaxies in the distant Universe form stars at much higher rates than today. High levels of star formation are sustained by a continuous supply of fresh gas and high molecular gas fractions. But after a peak around redshift z=2-3, the star formation rate decreases by an order of magnitude. Is this evolution mostly driven by the available cold gas reservoir, or are the star formation processes qualitatively different near the star formation peak? The Kennicutt-Schmidt relation enables to characterize the star formation efficiency at low and high redshift, but resolved measurements at the scale of the star-forming regions themselves are still challenging at high redshift. Molecular gas observations carried out at the IRAM Plateau de Bure interferometer within the PHIBSS program (Tacconi, Combes et al.) permit us to study the star formation efficiency at sub-galactic scales around z=1.2 and 1.5 for a limited sample of galaxies, and thus help characterize the star formation processes at this epoch. Our results lay in the continuation of the resolved low-redshift measurements, but further studies would be necessary to complement our sample and validate our conclusions.