French research minister commends growing UK-France science collaborations


The French Minister with Imperial academics

France’s Minister of Higher Education and Research Sylvie Retailleau visited Imperial to signal the growing scientific ties between the UK and France.

Imperial is one of France's closest UK scientific collaborators and publishes around 1,400 research papers with partners in France every year. Imperial and French partners are also involved in 61 Horizon Europe collaborative projects.

These growing links are emphasised by the joint research centre between Europe's largest fundamental science agency, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and Imperial.

The CNRS-Imperial International Research Centre (IRC) for Transformational Science and Technology is CNRS's only IRC in the UK and has become a major bridge for UK and French science communities spanning joint laboratories and networks in maths, frontier engineering disciplines, physics, biochemistry and systems biology.

The Centre led by Professor Sandrine Heutz  harnesses science collaboration to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sees the two institutions collaborate on early-career researcher training such as PhD programmes, research funding and proposals including Horizon Europe, as well sharing facilities, laboratories, infrastructure and data.

The partnership sees leading French and UK academics working together in areas such as artificial intelligence, climate change, material sciences, medicine and chemistry. 

The Minister – who was in London for the meeting of the Franco-British Joint Committee on Science and Technology – was accompanied by a delegation of French academic and research leaders to Imperial’s White City Deep Tech Campus. 

This week the UK and France announced new funding to boost research collaboration and a new partnership to further global AI safety. 

The funding commitment aims to unlock more UK-France joint bids for grants to support cutting-edge R&D. 

French Minister
The Minister visited Royce at Imperial where academics and industry make and test advanced materials.

Imperial’s President Hugh Brady and Vice-Provost (Research & Enterprise) Professor Mary Ryan welcomed the Minister to The Sir Michael Uren Hub, which comprises state-of-the-art laboratories for the next generation of biomedical engineering research. Professor Richard Craster, Dean of Natural Sciences and the Director of the Abraham de Moivre International Research Laboratory (IRL), a joint mathematics laboratory with CNRS, described how the lab had become an engine house for fundamental and applied mathematics to a range of societal challenges.

They then toured Royce at Imperial which has laboratory facilities used by academics and industry to make and test advanced materials, for use in areas such as semiconductors and quantum technology. Professor Neil Alford gave an introduction into some of the work being carried out into advanced materials.  

European grant successes 

Camille Petit
Professor Camille Petit won an ERC Starting Grant to develop a radically new class of photocatalysts

Imperial is one of the UK’s top recipients of Horizon Europe funding and has strong research collaborations with partners in France and around Europe. 
The Minister congratulated some of Imperial’s recent recipients of prestigious European Research Council grants who explained their ambitious projects. The Minister also heard from some of Imperial’s startups that are working in sustainability. They included Notpla, which was cofounded by French student Pierre Paslier, who are using seaweed to make disappearing packaging. 

The prestigious ERC Grants are some of the hardest scientific grants to win and are awarded to academics with strong track records. Depending on the grant, they allow the researcher to establish research teams, develop prototypes, or build on recent research breakthroughs or discoveries that they have made. The Minister met with some of Imperial’s recent recipients of ERC grants to hear about their pioneering research. 

Professor Camille Petit, from the Department of Chemical Engineering, won a Starting Grant to develop a radically new class of photocatalysts. The research aims to convert CO2 into a valuable fuel by using sunlight. 

Professor Ifan Stephens, from the Department of Materials, won a Consolidator Grant to study the synthesis of ammonia, the world’s most commonly produced chemical, used primarily for fertilisers. 

Professor Francesca Toni, from the Department of Computing, won an Advanced Grant to make AI more easily available in the areas of health and law. 

Dr Qilei Song, from the Department of Chemical Enginering, won a Starting Grant to develop next-generation cost-effective redox flow batteries – large energy storage devices that could power cities. 

Zero pollution startups 

Notpla product
Notpla showed some of their edible packaging made from seaweed

Four of Imperial’s startups gave presentations to the Minister on the technology and ideas that they are working on and explained how they are helping to accelerate the transition to zero pollution:  

Notpla which are using seaweed to make disappearing packaging and were among the first recipients of the Prince of Wales’s Earthshot Prize. 

WaveX are developing nearshore wave energy conversion to produce carbon-free electricity.  

RFC Power are developing the world’s lowest cost flow battery to enable the transition to 100% renewable energy. 

Oshen makes fully autonomous, wind-powered micro-vessels providing a sensor network for continuous monitoring of waves and weather across our oceans. 

Imperial and France 

Imperial has a long history of collaborating with partners in France and the last few years have seen some major flagship projects announced. 

Imperial and French researchers from the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automatic Control (INRIA) and the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) won a €10 million European Research Council grant to study how oceans are responding to climate change. 

The French space agency CNES and Imperial scientists also worked together to carry out an orbital mission to test how objects fall in a vacuum.   

Imperial has a growing French community both in London and overseas. With more than 500 French students at Imperial currently, French students make up the largest European group at the College. Imperial also has thousands of alumni living in France. 

Horizon Europe at Imperial 

The UK is now fully associated to Horizon Europe and Imperial research can participate in and lead projects across the programme.  

To find out more about opportunities in Horizon Europe, please get in touch with the Research Office and the Enterprise Research Impact Management Office



Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns
Communications Division

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