Imperial and CNRS strengthen UK-France science with new partnerships


signing agreement

Imperial and France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) are continuing to strengthen the science links between the UK and France.

The two institutes – who formed a major partnership in 2022 – outlined their ambitions for further collaborations in a wide range of research and innovation at their annual meeting hosted this year at Imperial.

This included agreeing a new five-year partnership for the Abraham De Moivre International Research Laboratory. The renowned joint laboratory hosts some of the world's top mathematicians and with the renewal of the partnership the laboratory aims to harness the fundamental science to transform society's most pressing challenges. 

Professors Brady and Petit
Professor Hugh Brady, President of Imperial and Professor Antoine Petit, CEO of CNRS, highlighted the importance of the UK's association to Horizon Europe 

Professor Hugh Brady, President of Imperial College London, said: “The success of the Abraham de Moivre International Research Laboratory is one of the best examples of UK-France collaboration. Imperial and the CNRS both share ambitions to address global challenges and we are determined to use the power of science to make the world a better place.”  

Professor Antoine Petit, Chairman and CEO of the CNRS, welcomed the UK's association to Horizon Europe and spoke about the importance of international collaboration.

annual meeting
The annual meeting was held at Imperial's White City Deep Tech Campus

The annual meeting was the first since the UK's association to the research funding programme Horizon Europe - which was celebrated by both President Brady and President Petit. They also highlighted the recent visit of France’s Minister of Higher Education and Research Sylvie Retailleau to Imperial as a signal of the growing scientific ties between the UK and France. 

‘New era of mathematics’  

The Abraham de Moivre IRL has announced plans for the next five years which will see mathematicians at the laboratory working on some of society’s greatest challenges – such as climate, health and sustainability.  

Many new and emerging technologies that become embedded within future society will rely on mathematics.  

For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are typically underpinned by complex algorithms.  

Scientists at the mathematics laboratory aim to use their expertise to improve these algorithms in a number of areas which could enable platforms to improve precision healthcare, better protect privacy and personal information, and improve modelling for use in areas such as climate monitoring and finance.   

The laboratory also plans to increase the number of its European-funded joint projects, train more PhD students, and further improve mobility for academics between the UK and France.  

An example of strong UK-France collaboration in the area of mathematics was a €10 million European Research Council grant to study how oceans are responding to climate change. The grant helped form a team of around thirty scientists divided up between London, Rennes and Brest.  

Professor Grigorios Pavliotis, the Director of the Abraham De Moivre, said: “The world is currently facing many challenges that impact everyone’s lives. Mathematics will play an essential role in nearly all aspects of future society such as improving precision healthcare, understanding climate change, and creating the algorithms which will underpin new technologies and platforms. By harnessing the strengths of the best mathematicians in the UK and France we can enter a new era of mathematics where it can help transform society for the better.”  

The Abraham de Moivre was created in 2018 and has since become very active in strengthening the links between the UK and French Mathematics communities. 

Some of the world’s leading mathematicians work at the laboratory such as Fields Medalist and Breakthrough Prize winner Professor Martin Hairer. The lab has also hosted 17 Fellows and Postdocs so far.

The new five-year partnership was announced at an event at the French Residence attended by Minister-Counsellor Sébastien Bidaud and Dr. Minh-Hà Pham, Counsellor for Science and Technology, from the French Embassy. 

Strengthening partnerships 

Professors Sandrine Heutz and Emmanuel Brouillet spoke about the success and ambitions of the International Research Centre

The CNRS is Imperial’s most frequent partner on EU-funded projects with French partners. Together Imperial and the CNRS have worked on 56 projects in H2020, and 17 so far in Horizon Europe

Imperial and the CNRS launched an International Research Centre for Transformational Science and Technology (IRC) in 2022.   

The Centre – the first of its kind to be set up by the CNRS in the UK or Europe – sees the two institutions collaborate on early-career researcher training such as PhD programmes, research funding and proposals including with Horizon Europe, as well sharing facilities, laboratories, infrastructure and data.  

The IRC serves as a larger framework to support interdisciplinary collaboration between the CNRS and Imperial, especially aimed at addressing UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

At the annual meeting Professors Sandrine Heutz and Emmanuel Brouillet, the Scientific Directors of the CNRS-Imperial International Research Centre, spoke about the success of the IRC and the ambitions and plans for future collaborations.

Professor Heutz and Brouillet introduced some of the
 research networks, laboratories and projects that come under the umbrella of the Centre including;

Imperial and CNRS will also launch the Ayrton Bleriot Engineering Lab (ABEL) International Research Laboratory in 2025.

Since the first IRC annual meeting last year in Paris, the Centre has further developed collaborations connected to the three IRC pillars of health, sustainability and connectivity, most notably in the launch of a new IRN focusing on sustainable computing (GOLDMINE), the anticipated launch in 2025 of a new IRL in Engineering (ABEL) focusing on areas of engineering ranging from quantum to materials with sustainability at its core, and in the areas of precision medicine, cancer research (LhARA), and quantum theory and strings.  

Next generation of researchers

PhD students
PhD students from Imperial and the CNRS met up to discuss their projects and ideas

Imperial and the CNRS have a joint PhD programme to train the next generation of world-leading researchers that has involved more than 50 students so far. 

Professor Heutz said: "The joint PhD scheme is a great mechanism for working together and forms the bedrock of our collaboration.  It has been wonderful to see the community of students coming together at this second annual event, highlighting the exceptional quality of their research and breadths of perspectives bridging disciplines and cultures. 

"The IRC was founded on the strength of our Imperial-CNRS collaborations, and will ensure that we are well placed for further joint European projects.

"We look forward to growing the interactions through further joint PhD projects, developing activities around our research pillars of Heath, Sustainability and Connectivity, and taking advantage of the mechanisms for collaboration in the international research labs, networks and projects."

This was the first time that PhD students have attended the annual meeting and the took part in training on communicating their research with policy-makers, met PIs and other PhD students, went on lab visits and engaged in the larger meetings and development of the IRC. Some of the students also presented their research projects to senior leaders from Imperial, CNRS and the French Embassy.

The latest joint PhD projects between Imperial and the CNRS have also been announced and will work in areas such as arctic climate, batteries, bioengineering, metabolism and mathematics. 

You can hear about one of the previously supported PhD projects 'Spinning sustainable carbon fibres for the energy transition' here in the first episode of the 'Voices of International Collaborations' podcast.


Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns
Communications Division

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