Europe and International

Inserm maintains a longstanding tradition of European and international cooperation. Every year, its teams report more than 6,000 collaborations with foreign partners, across all life sciences and health research domains.

Inserm pursues its international strategy along two complementary lines:

  • define institutional priorities on strategic interdisciplinary themes 
  • meet research community needs by fostering the emergence – and consolidation – of collaborations that drive key issues in biomedical research

A key player on the international scientific scene

The international dynamism of Inserm reflects the approach adopted by:

  • its research teams, which initiate and maintain thousands of scientific collaborations worldwide, and
  • its Directorate General, through a range of tools deployed by dedicated calls for projects and partnership agreements centered around the identified theme-based priorities

Through these approaches, Inserm consolidates its leadership in certain domains and reinforces its scientific expertise in response to future challenges.

Through the collaborations reported by its teams, Inserm is present in over 100 countries, on all continents, with over half of its collaborations in Europe and one quarter in the USA

Inserm internationally –  Figures for 2020
Collaborations reported: 6,580 with 102 countries
Ongoing cooperation agreements: 24
International co-publications 8,880 or 52% of Inserm publications
Co-publications with the European Union: 5,502 or 32% of Inserm publications
Présence de l'Inserm dans le monde
Inserm around the world (2021)

Priorities of Inserm’s international cooperation

Tackle global health issues

International collaborations are the best way to accelerate discoveries and progress thanks to the sharing of data or equipment, the pooling of expertise, the monitoring of cohorts, and the comparison of good practices and health systems organization. The Institute is particularly involved in priority themes that are drivers of global issues, both health and social: aging, chronic diseases, mental health, climate change and health impacts.

It is with this in mind that Inserm plays an active role within multilateral dialog spaces, notably through its strong involvement at the heart of UN institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or high-level groups such as the Heads of International Biomedical Research Organizations (HIROs). The Institute also participates, on behalf of Aviesan, in the governance bodies of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI). It also organized the first advocacy for the support of research in the context of the 6th Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


Strong mobilization against COVID-19

Inserm has been active on the international scene in the fight against COVID-19, notably through the calls for projects launched very early on by REACTing/ANRS-EID, in addition to the European projects EU-RESPONSE and CARE.

The excellence of its research teams in the domain of infectious diseases has enabled the Institute to be the first recipient of European funds following the emergency launch of calls for projects as part of Horizon 2020.


Strengthen collaboration with Inserm’s major international partners

Institutional cooperation, notably supported through Key Institutional Partnerships (KIPs) and International Research Projects (IRPs) [see below], involves the largest biomedical and health research players, on all continents, like the historic partnerships with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Oswaldo-Cruz Foundation in Brazil (neurosciences and emerging infectious diseases), and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRSQ, mental health/psychiatry). New collaborations have also been established in cutting-edge areas of biomedical research, such as with the University of Sydney in Australia (prevention in the domain of public health, data science) and the National University of Singapore (aging, artificial intelligence).

The USA is Inserm’s leading partner in terms of co-publications (representing over 17% of the Institute’s publications in 2020). The main themes of the collaboration with the US partners are, in decreasing order, neuroscience, biochemistry and molecular biology, followed by cell biology.

Asia and the Indo-Pacific region include three of Inserm’s most important partner countries (Australia, China, Japan), as illustrated by the number of co-publications in 2020. These collaborations offer strong potential for development – as attested by the results of the International Research Projects (IRPs) 2020 calls for proposals.

Contribute actively to the development of the European Research Area

Inserm plays an active role in the development of the European Research Area by facilitating and supporting the involvement its teams in European cooperation and competition. With this in mind, the Institute’s European strategy has three major orientations:

  • encourage Inserm teams to take part in European programs, thanks to a structured support system (information for teams via the Institute’s participation in the national contact points steered by the Ministry of Research, help with designing and setting up projects, help with preparing interviews for European Research Council Starting and Consolidator Grants, incentive measures, etc.)
  • promote targeted bilateral cooperation, in limited numbers, to define actions of common interest with its partners
  • increase influential actions within the framework of Aviesan, by maintaining regular dialogue between Inserm senior management and the European decision-making bodies, by holding annual scientific meetings in Brussels in the presence of European Commission and European Parliament members, through involvement in strategic European bodies and influential actions for the preparation of work programs and calls, involvement in projects of a European scope (EIT Health, EDCTP, etc.), and involvement in the European initiatives (JNPD, JPIAMR, HBM4EU, JAAMR, etc.)

To find out more about Inserm’s participation in European programs (Horizon Europe, EU4Health, etc.)

European grantees

Many Inserm researchers are recipients of funding from a European research program: Council of Europe (ERC), Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), Horizon 2020 Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing Challenge, etc.

Support resource-limited countries

Numerous actions have been launched in resource-limited countries, particularly within the framework of the steering of Aviesan Sud by Inserm, in close collaboration with ANRS-EID.

Examples include the projects APHRO-CoV (led by REACTing and then ANRS-EID) and Afroscreen (ANRS-EID): with the support of the French Development Agency (AFD), these projects aim to strengthen health systems in 5 and 13 African countries, respectively, in the fight against COVID-19. Confirmed within the framework of an agreement between Inserm and the Rwandan Ministry of Health signed in 2021, Inserm will also support the creation of a Clinical Investigation Center in Rwanda.

Finally, in India, the agreement renewed in 2018 with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) supports the development of a metabolic diseases and diabetes network.

Encouraging and structuring collaborations: Inserm’s cooperation tools

Inserm offers a range of tools for international, bilateral, or multilateral cooperation, which make it possible to find the most suitable funding and structuring vector for each project. According to Inserm’s 2021–2025 Strategic Plan, these tools aim to:

  • encourage a spontaneous researcher dynamic, by supporting emerging collaborations (programs through calls for projects)
  • consolidate and structure the priority institutional cooperation orientations, with a view to ensuring Inserm’s leadership position at global level

1 – Explore: the International First Steps

The International First Steps program is a thematically and geographically open exploration tool. It supports the establishment of a new collaboration between a young Inserm researcher (recruited as a staff scientist [CRCN] within the past 5 years, ATIP-Avenir or ERC Starting grantee) and a foreign team. Its purpose is to launch scientific and technological exchanges between two research laboratories.
The selected joint research projects receive a total of €10,000 in funding over a one-year period.

2 – Initiate: International Research Projects (ex-LEA/LIA)

International Research Projects (IRPs) are intended to support an emerging partnership between two or more countries, by providing scientific projects of excellence and high impact potential the means to establish this collaboration over the long term. Open thematically, the program supports projects that demonstrate the complementarity between the participating teams, as well as the added value of their collaboration. It aims to consolidate a partnership established between an Inserm team and one or more foreign teams. The calls are geographically targeted, alternating zones from one year to the next, in order to cover all countries and territories.

Inserm supports the selected projects for 5 years, with up to €60,000 for European partnerships, and €75,000 for partnerships outside Europe.

Inserm staff can find out more about and apply for the First Steps and IRP programs via Intranet

3 – Structure: Key International Partnerships (KIPs)

The KIPs are bilateral or multilateral institutional agreements identified by the Directorate General to support priority established collaborations of thematic and geographic strategic interest.

4 – Integrate: Thematic Coordination Programs (TCPs)

The first of their kind, the TCPs bring together a limited number of partners (4–5) around a theme identified as a priority by the Directorate General, and whose societal and scientific challenges are major and shared by the international community.

It is intended to fund 4 or 5 TCPs over the entire 2021–2025 Strategic Plan. The first funded TCP, InterAging, is related to aging in good health. It is led by Eric Gilson, in the continuity of the cross-cutting program Agemed.

Inserm coordinates and supports these thematic networks over a period of five years.

Steering of international and European cooperation

Within the Department of National and Foreign Affairs, the staff responsible for international and European relations implement Inserm’s international and European policy, as defined by the Directorate General. Supported by offices in Washington and Brussels, the staff:

  • support the development of bilateral, multilateral and community exchanges and partnerships
  • develop and manage the corresponding cooperation tools
  • ensure follow-up and evaluation of the Institute’s international actions and tools
  • promote Inserm’s work internationally
  • monitor the international public health research landscape
  • host foreign delegations and organize the Directorate General’s travel to visit partners or for any international initiatives