On 30 November, the University of Montpellier, in close collaboration with its partners in the MUSE I-site, was awarded a 23.2 million euro budget for its ExposUM project, winner of the call for projects "Excellence in all its forms" of the future investment programme (PIA4). This sum has been doubled by the Occitanie Region, which brings the funding for this project, dedicated to the study of external and environmental factors capable of affecting human health.

This success is satisfying in more ways than one," says Philippe Augé, President of the University of Montpellier. " First and foremost, it is a recognition of the University's leadership in life and environmental sciences. It is a leadership that we have built with our partners around the three challenges of 'feeding, caring and protecting' and at the crossroads of which ExposUM is situated.

A unifying project

ExposUm is the name of this ambitious project that the University and its partners submitted in the framework of the call for projects " Excellence in all its forms ". The name was chosen in direct reference to the concept of the exposome, which refers to " all exposures to external and environmental factors (food, pollution, infectious agents, etc.) that can affect human health," explains Eric Delaporte, professor of infectious diseases and project leader. It is an extremely unifying theme in Montpellier that will enable a large number of themes to be crossed, as well as multiple disciplines such as oncology, nutrition, ecology, chemistry, human sciences, etc. And we have excellent research centres to do this.

To respond to this call for projects, the University of Montpellier, as well as the CNRS,IRD,Inrae, CIRAD,Inserm, Montpellier University Hospital, theCancer Institute, theAgro Institute,ENSCM,Ifremer and evenInria sat down to devise a project that would bring together the strengths of Montpellier. This project is the result of a collective effort to make the most of all the skills we have at Muse," continues Eric Delaporte. For François Pierrot, director of the Muse campus, ExposUM is nothing less than the "keystone of the building we have been constructing since 2017: to bring together a large number of scientific communities around the three pillars we have chosen.

Strong support from the Occitanie region

Of the 35 applications received by the Ministry, only 15 were retained in this first selection wave. While some major Parisian universities were rejected, the University of Montpellier was the only winner in Occitania to receive the label. " This is a further success in addition to the 2.5 million euros obtained two weeks ago for innovation clusters. This success reinforces the credibility of the University and its partners," emphasises Philippe Augé.

The Ministry specifies that "the projects selected are all supposed to have an impact on their territory. A local dimension largely highlighted in the Montpellier project to which the Region wished to respond by doubling the stake and by contributing a 23.2 million euro envelope in its turn. A commitment made in the name of its green pact for Occitania, as President Carole Delga emphasised: " The collective research work that the University of Montpellier and its partners will carry out on the impact of external factors and our environment on health is essential. A better understanding of these phenomena means being able to implement more appropriate and innovative public policies on the regional territory. This is why I wanted to give this project every chance of success through strong financial support.

By supporting the establishment and development of companies, ExposUM should also be a major asset for the metropolis and the Med Vallée project, which aims to make Montpellier a European-class centre for health, the environment, food and well-being.

New Chairs of Excellence

In total, more than 46 million euros over 8 years will be added to the resources provided by the University and its eleven partners. This is a significant sum and a strong signal for Montpellier at national level," enthuses Eric Delaporte. Our project is extremely ambitious and we must now collectively establish the precise strategic orientations of the first actions we want to implement. Research projects will of course see the light of day thanks to the recruitment of young researchers, but also new chairs of excellence " which will really be at the heart of ExposUM ".

The cutting-edge technological platforms for assessing risks, measuring pollutant concentrations and monitoring their effects on health will be strengthened through the recruitment of engineers. Human and financial resources will also be provided to better exploit the results of research and make them directly useful to society. Training will of course not be forgotten with the creation of new training courses in Montpellier, but also in areas where emerging risks are important. " With ExposUM, we will simply be writing the next chapters of the Muse success story," concludes Eric Delaporte.