There is a strong tradition of cooperation between the various establishments and institutions involved in research i.e. the 80 universities, 30 research institutions and 120 Grandes Ecoles and other establishments.

The large number of joint research groups bears witness to this tradition and is evidence of the strong culture of scientific cooperation in France.

Scientific Activity

Research is conducted within higher education institutions (universities, schools, etc.), research institutions (public research) and companies (private research). In all, this sector employs 400,000 persons, of which 250,000 are researchers. Source

There are different types of institutions and organizations involved in research. The main ones are:

  • Public scientific and technical research establishment (EPST)
  • Public institutions specializing in industry and commerce (EPIC)
  • Higher education institutes in the field of science, culture and professional education (EPSCP)
  • Public administration institutions (EPA)
  • Private institutes and foundations

Although some laboratories and units of research belong exclusively to one research or higher education institution, others are affiliated to several organisations. Half the laboratories attached to higher education institutions are affiliated to one or more research organisations and are called mixed research units (UMR).

The main EPST scientific and technical research institutions are:

  • CNRS, the French National Centre for Public research, is the most important French public research organization. It is under the direct responsibility of the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research. The CNRS has 1260 research units engaged in fundamental research in all disciplines.
  • INRAE, the French National Institute for agricultural Research) is involved in research on nutrition, agriculture and the environment. INRA has 235 research units and 60 experimental stations.
  • INRIA, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation) carries out research in the fields of computer science, information and communication technologies. It comprises 143 research groups.
    L’Institut national de recherche en informatique et en automatique (Inria) est effectif dans les domaines des sciences et technologies de l’information et de la communication. Il dispose de 143 équipes de recherche.
  • Inserm, French Institute for Health and Medical Research) focuses on human health. It has 335 laboratories and 41 clinical centres.
  • IRD, The French Research Institute for Development) cooperates with developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America in areas of scientific and technical research dealing with the environment, health and globalization.

The main public institutions specializing in industry and commerce, EPIC are:

  • Ademe, is a French agency for the promotion of and research in energy management and environmental protection.
  • CEA, French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission, is one of the major institutions dedicated to research, development and innovation in energy, information technologies, health, defense and security. It has 10 research centers and 54 joint research units (UMR).
  • Cirad, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) promotes rural development in tropical and sub-tropical countries through agricultural research and innovation. It counts 59 research units.
  • Cnes, French National Centre for Space Research) is responsible for determining and implementing France’s space policy. Its main areas of activity are access to space, sustainable development, security and defense.
  • IFREMER, the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, is an agency dedicated to research in marine science. It applies its expertise to various programs among which monitoring of coastal zones, marine ecosystems, assessment of fisheries and aquaculture resources. It consists of 25 research departments.


Check the map of France on our homepage to find out where higher education institutions are located.

  • The Catalogue Collectif de France (CCFr) is one of the most powerful online bibliographic and document research tools in France. It provides a single search interface to locate more than 30 million printed and multimedia documents available in the French library system.


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