Inserm conducts its research in partnership with numerous players in France: higher education institutions, research organizations, university hospitals, health operators, industry, patient organizations and foundations, local authorities, health agencies, and social welfare organizations.
In particular, these partnerships take the form of the creation of Joint Research Units (JRUs), set up as part of a strategy of shared scientific objectives. Inserm has approximately 350 research structures (units, Clinical Investigation Centers) throughout France. Almost all of these structures are JRUs, each with at least one higher education and research institution sharing supervision with Inserm.
At each site, there is continued dialog between Inserm and its partners, making it possible to:
- develop a shared scientific strategy, using the opportunities specific to the sites and the strengths of Inserm as a national organization
- support the research units on a daily basis, taking a co-construction and resource-sharing approach with the partners, ensuring project coherence at national level
Inserm is also developing a policy of partnerships with institutions, health authorities, and public and private decision-makers. The Institute also has many international partners.
Universities, associations of universities and higher education institutions (ComUE), and Grandes Ecoles
More than 80% of Inserm’s research units are located on university and hospital sites. Higher education institutions are Inserm’s main partners in terms of joint supervision.
French act no. 2013–660 of July 22, 2013, on higher education and research introduced the concept of regional coordination for research and transfer strategies, and training. This coordination is based on projects shared between higher education institutions and research organizations. It promotes a multidisciplinary approach with new or enhanced interfaces between universities, schools (particularly engineering schools), businesses, local authorities, and research organizations.
Inserm contributes to this coordination by participating in various forums in which it promotes research into life sciences and health.
French act no. 2007–1199 of August 10, 2007, on the freedoms and responsibilities of universities reinforces the ability of each establishment to develop a scientific policy and therefore affirm research priorities.
In this context, Inserm takes a position, with partner research organizations for life sciences and health, regarding the priorities expressed by local stakeholders, after a strategic and scientific assessment has been undertaken in the main areas covered by the Theme-Based Institutes. This consists in:
- supporting the development of JRU activities, ranging from single-team units to research centers
- supporting the development of research infrastructures for biology/health, technology, clinical research, and public health; the identified priorities should meet local needs defined at the local level and be consistent with national and European roadmaps for very large infrastructures; and
- supporting the autonomy of young researchers to attract excellence
Inserm works with almost all of the associations of universities and higher education institutions (ComUEs) established by the French act of July 22, 2013. It is a member of four Parisian ComUEs and a partner or associate member of the ComUEs that host Inserm units.
Some university groups sponsor or rely on an Initiative for Excellence (Idex) or a Science – Innovation – Territorial – Economic Initiative (I‑site) project. Inserm is currently involved in the governance and scientific strategy of:
- 9 Idex projects (confirmed:Sorbonne Université, Strasbourg, Marseille, Bordeaux, Paris Saclay, PSL. In the probationary phase: Université de Paris, Grenoble et Nice), and
- 6 I‑site projects (Bourgogne Franche Comté, Lorraine, Lille, Montpellier, Clermont Auvergne and Nantes)
Inserm has sought to establish close partnerships with the Grandes Ecoles (highly prestigious and selective higher education institutions). This action has been confirmed in its Strategic Plan.
In this context, Inserm and CentraleSupélec signed a framework agreement in 2015. The twin objective of this new collaboration is to train engineers that are better integrated into research laboratories, and biologists that are more involved in technological innovation. The two establishments hope to enhance their joint actions through innovation and entrepreneurial spirit; the creation of new businesses will be another aspect of the program being established.
Approximately one-third of Inserm’s units are placed under the joint responsibility of another institution or research organization. Inserm’s units are co-supervised by:
- Research organizations:
- Other institutions:
Inserm and Aviesan
Inserm presides over the French National Alliance for Life Sciences and Health (Aviesan), which brings together the country’s major life sciences and health players. Inserm facilitates Aviesan’s governance bodies and coordinates all responses on Aviesan’s behalf: strategic guidance documents, steering committees for national plans, and representation.
With the support of Aviesan’s members, Inserm is a staunch advocate of biomedical research. It launches new initiatives, positioning Aviesan as a key player. Some examples include the action plan for health research programming, the role of research in the National Health Data System, the 2025 French Genomic Medicine Initiative, the research program to fight antibiotic resistance, and the structuring and coordination of the REACTing network, particularly in the fight against the Ebola, Zika and SARS-CoV‑2 (COVID-19) viruses.
University hospitals and health operators
Inserm is closely associated with hospitals, given that most of its research structures are located within the perimeter of university hospital sites, including university hospitals, comprehensive cancer centers (CLCCs), schools of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry, and French National Blood Service (EFS) sites.
Inserm plays a key role in the university-research organization-hospital trio to provide France with centers for excellence with a triple vocation of education, research, and healthcare. In fact, the Institute is the only one to effectively ensure the continuity of basic and clinical biological and medical research.
Inserm is thus responsible for organizing the representation of research organizations in the Biomedical and Public Health Research Committees (CRBSPs) of 27 university hospitals.
Inserm hosts doctors
More than 2,000 university hospital employees work in Inserm research structures and over 40% of Inserm structures are managed by university professors and hospital practitioners.
With its Fellowship program, Inserm strengthens ties between basic research, clinical, therapeutic, and public health research, and pursues its research training policy through research. In the context of this program, Inserm units or Clinical Investigation Centers (CICs) host doctors for a two-year period. In 2017, 37 such contracts were in progress, including 19 new contracts that had been signed that year.
For their part, Hospital Liaison Contracts enable hospital practitioners to undertake part-time research work or devote more time to research. Once again, doctors are hosted by Inserm units or CICs. Eight new contracts were signed in 2017, adding to the 33 contracts in progress.
Inserm is involved in partnerships with private players in the field of research and has strong partnerships with national and international industrial companies including Dassault Systèmes, MSD Avenir, MedImmune/AstraZeneca, Sanofi, and Pierre Fabre.
These partnerships with industry rely on the know-how of Inserm Transfert. This private subsidiary of Inserm manages the entire process of creating value and transferring knowledge from Inserm’s research laboratories to industry, helping to promote health innovation.
Patient organizations and foundations
Patient organizations and foundations are valuable partners for Inserm. They contribute to the funding and organization of research and play a decisive role in the democracy of healthcare and science.
Foundations and patient organizations develop strategies in support of research based on calls for proposals and the granting of awards to recognize excellence in scientific research. Our laboratories apply for these grants and respond to these tenders.
Some of Inserm’s programs, such as the ATIP-Avenir program, are established in close collaboration with patient organizations and foundations.
Local and regional authorities
Inserm maintains close relations with the French regions and major metropolitan areas. These relations can take the form of framework agreements for regional cooperation, deploying the partnership priorities that Inserm and a region want to jointly develop (co-financing).
State-Regional Plan Contracts
Relations between Inserm and the regions primarily rely on State-Regional Plan Contracts (CPERs). For the 2015–2020 CPER, Inserm is providing funding for 22 projects in 14 regions for a total sum of €21 million.
A competitiveness cluster brings together small and large businesses, research laboratories and training organizations in a clearly defined geographical area around a targeted theme. It aims to support innovation and promotes the development of collaborative research and development (R&D) projects.
Inserm is involved in various competitiveness clusters in the field of health:
- Medicen – Ile-de-France
- Lyonbiopôle – Rhône-Alpes
- Alsace BioValley – Alsace
- Atlanpole Biotherapies – Pays-de-la-Loire
- Eurobiomed (formerly Cancer-Bio-Santé) – Midi-Pyrénées
- Nutrition Longévité Santé – Nord-Pas-de-Calais
- Eurobiomed – PACA – Languedoc- Roussillon
The aim of the partnerships with health agencies is to develop new research themes by combining Inserm’s expertise in biomedicine with that of complementary fields such as demographics and social sciences. These partnerships are reflected in various joint actions:
- seminars and conferences
- initiatives to support the development of research through tenders, and
- the implementation of large-scale projects such as the National Health Data System
Inserm is a partner of the following French structures:
- Biomedicine Agency
- National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM)
- Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES)
- National Authority for Health (HAS)
- National Cancer Institute (INCa)
- Public Health Agency
As part of the Cancer Plan, the National Cancer Institute (INCa), in partnership with Inserm on behalf of Aviesan and the Ministry of Health (DGSO), labels integrated cancer research sites (SIRIC for « SItes de Recherche Intégrée sur le Cancer ») whose mission is to develop and conduct integrated research programs, as well as to set up programs to disseminate knowledge and new practices. The funding of these SIRICs is jointly provided by INCa, DGOS and Inserm.
In 2018, the eight labelled SIRICs were the following:
- SIRIC Curie – Institut Curie, Paris
- LYriCAN (Manipulating cell plasticity for innovative cancer treatment) – Centre Léon Bérard, Lyon
- BRIO (Bordeaux Integrated Cancer Research) – Bordeaux
- SIRIC Montpellier Cancer – Montpellier
- SOCRATE – Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif
- CARPEM (CAncer Research for PErsonalized Medicine) – Paris Public Hospitals Group AP-HP (Necker [Hematology Department], Georges Pompidou, and Cochin/Hôtel-Dieu hospitals)
- ILIAD (Imaging and Longitudinal Investigations to Ameliorate Decision making in multiple myeloma and breast cancer) – Nantes University Hospital
- CURAMUS (Cancer United Research Associating Medicine, University & Society) – Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital Group, Paris
Social welfare organizations
Inserm is a partner of the social welfare organizations (French national health insurance) in order to:
- provide scientific support for monitoring and improving the health of the population, and
- develop and capitalize on knowledge and methodologies for optimizing management of care and prevention systems
This partnership takes the form of Collective Expert Reviews, the funding of specific research, and literature reviews.