Emmanuel Gendreau

Co-pilot of the SOUND project's "Sustainable Worlds" thematic program

The SOUND project illustrates what a university should be today.

Emmanuel Gendreau is an associate professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and has forged his expertise in the fields of agri-food and urban ecology. Here, he shares his vision and ambitions for the "Sustainable Worlds" thematic program he is co-directing as part of the SOUND project.

Tell us a little about your career and your current responsibilities.

Emmanuel Gendreau: I trained as a biochemical engineer at INSA Lyon, and then completed a PhD on the role of multiple genome duplications in cell differentiation. At the same time, I began teaching at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin in fields as diverse as molecular modeling, bacterial metabolism and botany.

When recruited as a n associate professor at the Université Jules Vernes in Picardie, the agri-food sector became the focus of my teaching. I then moved on to UPMC, now Sorbonne University's Faculty of Science and Engineering, where I teach in the Life Sciences degree program and in the agri-food branch of Polytech Sorbonne.

In charge of sustainable development at Sorbonne University for two years, I joined the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences in 2016, where I work on urban ecology projects.

Could you tell us what you see as the objectives and challenges of the SOUND project?

E.G.: Our societies are facing a number of challenges, both material and environmental. The SOUND project aims to support scientific approaches in order to provide some answers. Transdisciplinarity, at the heart of this program, is a key element in finding innovative solutions.

With its thematic programs bringing together the three faculties of Sorbonne Université and other members of the Alliance, different trends and complementarities, the SOUND project illustrates the meaning of what a university should be today. Established for a period of 10 years, I believe it will provide the university with the structure it needs to meet today's major challenges.

Why did you decide to pilot a thematic program?

E.G.: It's a logical extension of my long-standing commitment to sustainable development initiatives and teaching at our university. For example, in 2011, with the Lycée des Métiers de l'Horticulture et du Paysage in Montreuil, I created a professional degree in the development and ecological management of urban landscapes - an educational and human adventure focused on the challenge of tomorrow's city. More recently, along with other colleagues, I set up a series of seminars on the major challenges of sustainable development for all engineering students at Polytech Sorbonne. It's in this context that I've been working for several years now with the co-pilot of the thematic program, Yann Douze, with whom I combine high-tech and biodiversity in our student projects.

The SOUND program now gives me the opportunity to be a player and contribute my skills in the field, but also to change scale with other means, other communities, crossing disciplines and cultures. What I really appreciate about this program is that it brings me into contact with other worlds, particularly the humanities, which I believe will provide major answers to many environmental challenges.

What will your role be as pilot?

E.G.: With the scientific committee and my co-pilot, Yann Douze, my role will be to monitor the projects set up by our thematic program and to encourage exchanges between the various partners of the Sorbonne University Alliance.

The aim is to have a comprehensive vision and be able to support a wide range of initiatives. The human and societal dimension is fundamental. To tackle the central question of planetary resources and environmental impact, it is essential to work alongside modellers, statisticians, botanists and geoscientists, as well as geographers, historians, sociologists and others.

How do you plan to work with institutes and initiatives?

E.G.: Yann Douze and I have started by contacting the various players in the Sorbonne University Alliance, to coordinate the actions in place and develop and support those that need it. The idea is to have complementary visions and work together in harmony.

Our scientific committee will include experts from the Université de Technologie de Compiègne, INSEAD, the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, the university's three faculties and institutes such as the Institut de la Transition Environnement, with which I have been working for many years. They will provide a relay for a number of our activities, but also contribute to the development of a broad vision of what sustainable worlds can be.