Europe and International

We at Inserm maintain a longstanding tradition of European and international cooperation. Every year, our teams report more than 7,000 collaborations with foreign partners, across all research domains in the life and health sciences.

We pursue our international strategy along two complementary lines:

  • strengthen the Institute’s international reach,
  • meet research community needs by fostering the emergence – and consolidation – of collaborations that drive key issues in biomedical research.

To learn more, read our leaflet Inserm abroad

A key player on the international scientific scene

Our international dynamism reflects the approach adopted by:

  • our research teams, which initiate and maintain thousands of scientific collaborations worldwide, and
  • our Directorate General, through a range of tools deployed by specific calls for proposals and partnership agreements centred around the theme-based priorities identified.

Through these approaches, we consolidate our leadership in a serious of key domains and reinforce our scientific expertise in response to future challenges.

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

Présence de l'Inserm dans le monde
Inserm around the world (2021)

Priorities of Inserm’s international cooperation

Tackle global health challenges

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 organisation. We are particularly involved in priority themes that are drivers of global challenges, both health and social, such as ageing, chronic diseases, mental health, and the health impacts of climate change. It is with this in mind that we play an active role within multilateral dialogue spaces, notably through our 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). We also participate in the governance bodies of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI).

Strengthen collaboration with major international partners

Institutional cooperations, notably supported through Key Institutional Partnerships (KIPs) and International Research Projects (IRPs) [see below], involve the largest biomedical and health research players, on all continents. Our historic partnerships include those with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), the Oswaldo-Cruz Foundation in Brazil (neurosciences and emerging infectious diseases), and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRSQ). We have also established new collaborations 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), the National University of Singapore (ageing, artificial intelligence) and the NIH (alcohol dependence).

The USA is our leading partner in terms of joint publications (representing 18.5% of our publications in 2022).

Asia and the Indo-Pacific region account for 4 of our most important partner countries (Australia, China, Japan and India), as illustrated by the number of joint publications in 2022. Strong institutional links structure this region, through bilateral agreements with dedicated seed funding instruments.

Contribute actively to the development of the European Research Area

We play an active role in the development of the European Research Area (ERA) by facilitating and supporting our teams in European cooperation and competition. With this in mind, our European strategy has three major orientations:

  • Encourage our teams to participate in European programmes thanks to a structured support system: information for teams via the participation of our Institute in the national contact points steered by France’s 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 to define actions of common interest with our partners.
  • Participate in the intergovernmental dialogue on science and technology operated by France’s Ministries of Higher Education and Research (MESR) and Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) with our main partner countries.
  • Increase influential actions by: maintaining regular dialogue between our senior management and the European decision-making bodies; holding annual scientific meetings in Brussels attended by members of the European Commission and European Parliament; involvement in strategic European bodies and influential actions for the preparation of work programmes and calls for proposals; involvement in European projects(EIT Health, EDCTP, etc.) and European initiatives (JNPD, JPIAMR, HBM4EU, JAAMR, etc.).

To find out more about our participation in European programmes (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.

Develop cooperation with the Global South

We have initiated numerous actions, particularly as part of our steering of Aviesan Sud, in close collaboration with our independent agency ANRS-EID.

Examples include the APHRO-CoV projects (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.

In another example, as part of an agreement between our Institute and the Rwandan Ministry of Health signed in 2021, we have supported the creation of a Clinical Investigation Centre in Rwanda.

In the future, particular efforts will focus on the development of cooperations beyond the field of infectious diseases, drawing on the International Research Platforms in Global Health (PRISME) or the instruments deployed with the support of the European Commission following the Dakar call.

Thus in India, the agreement renewed in 2022 with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) supports cooperation in the field of metabolic diseases and diabetes. A new call for proposals on the vascular complications of diabetes is planned for 2024.

Encouraging and structuring collaborations: Inserm’s cooperation tools

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

  • encourage a spontaneous researcher dynamic, by supporting emerging collaborations (programmes through calls for proposals),
  • consolidate and structure the priority institutional cooperation orientations, with the aim of ensuring our leadership position at global level.

1 – Explore: International First Steps

The International First Steps programme 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 or an ATIP-Avenir or ERC Starting grantee) and a foreign team. Its purpose is to launch scientific and technological exchanges between two research units.
The selected joint research projects receive a total of €10,000 in funding over a 1‑year period.

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

International Research Projects (IRPs) are intended to consolidate an emerging partnership between two or more countries, by providing scientific projects of excellence the means to establish this collaboration over the long term. Open thematically, the programme supports projects that demonstrate complementarity between the participating teams, as well as the added value of their collaboration.

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

Our staff can find out more about and apply for the First Steps and IRP programmes via Intranet

3 – Structure: Key International Partnerships (KIPs)

KIPs are bilateral or multilateral institutional agreements identified by the Directorate General to support priority established collaborations of strategic geographic and thematic relevance. North America and the Asia-Indo-Pacific region are focal points of our cooperation.

4 – Integrate: Thematic Coordination Programmes (TCPs)

The TCPs federate a small 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. These networks of excellence are funded for 5 years and promote cross-disciplinary and articulated research.

Following on from the AgeMed national programme, the InterAging TCP brings together researchers from the National University of Singapore, the University of Cologne, the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and Ruijin Hospital, focusing on the theme of healthy ageing.

The second TCP, INPP, concerns precision psychiatry and will be launched in 2024 in synergy with the ProPsy Priority Research Programmes and Equipment (PEPR).

We coordinate and support these theme-based networks over an initial period of 5 years, with a view to ensuring sustainability.

Steering of international and European cooperation

Within the National and Foreign Affairs Department, the staff responsible for international and European relations implement our international and European policy, as defined by the Directorate General. Supported by a representative office in Brussels, the staff:

  • support the establishment of bilateral, multilateral and community exchanges and partnerships,
  • develop and manage the corresponding cooperation tools,
  • ensure follow-up and evaluation of Inserm’s international actions and tools,
  • promote the work of Inserm internationally,
  • monitor the international public health research landscape,
  • host foreign delegations and organise the Directorate General’s travel.