Hydropolis brings together the water science community

Drought, global warming, irrigation, contamination... the issue of water resources regularly occupies centre stage in the media. In Montpellier, the new Hydropolis science park dedicated to water embodies the organized gathering of the water science community to structure the strengths and assets needed to tackle these issues.

The inauguration of Hydropolis took place under a symbolic rain shower on March 30. Built on the campus of the Faculty of Pharmacy, the three-storey, 3,130 m2 building represents an investment of 10 million euros, financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the Occitanie Region, the University of Montpellier, the CNRS and the IRD. On a privileged site in the heart of Montpellier, the Hydropolis building frames a garden planted with trees, a bucolic break for visitors and a botanical tool for students of the Faculty of Pharmacy, who can be seen working in the garden.

This science park dedicated to water is unique in France: "There are currently no facilities of this kind specifically dedicated to water," explains Éric Servat, Director of the Centre international Unesco Icireward. This new water science campus brings together the water research laboratories HydroSciences Montpellier and G-EAU (in the Hydropolis extension to be built on the Inrae Lavalette campus), as well as the Centre international Unesco Icireward and the Observatoire de recherche montpelliérain de l'environnement (OREME) and its high-level analytical geochemistry platform.

Double objective

While the Hydropolis building is already home to research teams focusing on the themes of water resources, contaminants and health, and in particular the chemical and microbiological characterization of water resources, a second building is due to be built on the Lavalette site, with a focus on water uses, particularly in agriculture. The site will not only host the social science players concerned by this issue, but will also draw on existing infrastructures dedicated to agricultural experimentation.

" A total of 400 scientists make up Montpellier's water research community ", explains the director of the Centre international Unesco Icireward, who is behind this innovative project, " which has always been supported by the University of Montpellier ". The project has a dual objective: " Hydropolis is the embodiment of Montpellier's water science community, but it also aims to bring research teams and the business world closer together ". Until now, this rapprochement has been complicated by the geographical fragmentation of the various water-related research forces.

Facilitating reconciliation

" The new Hydropolis building has been conceived and designed to facilitate this rapprochement, with spaces specifically dedicated to welcoming companies and materializing interactions with the business world ". In this way, Hydropolis will strengthen cooperation between industry and research teams, facilitating technology transfer, particularly in areas related to water quality and the reuse of treated wastewater.

In particular, the building will house the management of the Aqua-Valley competitiveness cluster, whose members include some 250 companies. Dedicated offices and large, bright workspaces will accommodate companies working on collaborative R&D projects, and help bring together all the forces at work in the water sector. " It's a question of giving concrete expression to Montpellier's position in the field of water in the broadest sense of the term, and not just in the academic world," emphasizes Eric Servat, who also points to the importance of water issues in the city's projects. 

An important signal

" In this respect, the arrival of Aqua-Valley on our premises is highly symbolic, highlighting the determination we have in Montpellier to address the issue of water from all angles: scientific, economic, social and soci etal". For Éric Servat, the creation of Hydropolis is an important signal that the water science community in Montpellier is organizing its scientific and technical resources so as to be able to respond to all types of requests.

Hydropolis gives Montpellier's water community " greater visibility and appeal ", emphasizes Éric Servat, and embodies the importance it has acquired in recent years. A research theme that is more topical than ever, to which the scientific community gathered within Hydropolis offers "the capacity to bring objective elements to the debate in order to make the best possible decisions ", insists Éric Servat.