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Short presentation

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Laboratory ESPACE (Etude des Structures, des Processus d’Adaptation et des Changements de l’Espace).

Direction : Pr. C. Voiron-Canicio


ESPACE was created in 1997 by the CNRS and the French Research Ministry. It federates three research teams which belong to three Universities of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region : Aix‐Marseille University (AMU), University of Avignon and Pays de Vaucluse (UAPV) and University of Nice Sophia Antipolis (UNS). ESPACE is associated with two CNRS institutes, Humanities and Social Sciences (INSHS) and Ecology and Environment (INEE).

ESPACE regroups geographers and anthropologists from the three PACA Universities to analyse territorial dynamics : settlement logic, urban systems, organisation of space, spatial planning and the environment.

It is involved in several research fields. The two primary fields are the following : interactions between space, human societies and environment related to risks and urban systems, and theoretical and methodological aspects of spatial analysis.

Research work concerns both fundamental research, in particular in spatial analysis and modelling, and more specifically applied work in relation to the requirements of local authorities.

Brief overview of ESPACE


  • Personnel : In November 2016, ESPACE included 90 members (58 permanent members, mainly geographers, and 32 PhD students).
  • Publications : Since 2011, 174 papers in international peer-reviewed journals (148 A-ranked), 141 scientific books and book chapters, 6 corpus and databases, 2 patents.
  • Scientific focus and breakthroughs : ESPACE is commited into research and development activities of two kinds : i) Environmental management : forest fires, hydrology and climate, flooding risk, erosion and pollution. Most of the studies concern Mediterranean areas. ii) Territorial and spatial dynamics studies : socio-economic urban dynamics, urban risks, processes of coastal urbanization, territorial changes. ESPACE is specialised into the use and the development of spatial analysis, GIS and modelling. Currently, much is done on geoprospective and geogovernance applied to urban and coastal areas, where sustainable development issues are studied.
  • Collaborations : The laboratory is involved in the European Research Group S4 developing spatial dynamic modelling and 5 Research Groups CNRS (GDR). It is a partner of the network Long Term Ecological Research Basin : The Rhone Basin (axes : climate changes and water resources ; social studies of the river and governing). The unit conducts innovative fundamental research leading to operationality and carried out in interaction with the civil society. ESPACE has established strong partnerships with national and international administrations, local decision makers, and collaborations with industries (EDF, RENAULT, BASF).
  • Attractiveness : The CNRS Institutes INEE and INSHS chose ESPACE to lead the Human-Environment Observatory OHM Littoral Méditerranéen, interdisciplinary network aiming to understand how ecosystem and anthroposystem work, and to predict their evolution.
  • Awards : ESPACE counts 2 CNRS bronze medal. 5 best conference papers since 2011 ; first prize “Data crossing” - The Data for Development (‘D4D’) Senegal – Orange Challenge (2015) ; 3 international prizes awarded to scientific programs, between 2014 and 2016.
  • The center scientific evaluation by the AERES in 2011 was A (Publications : A, Attractiveness : A+, Governance : A+, Project : A).