International Policy

Inserm has a long tradition of European and international cooperation, as demonstrated by the 6,300 cooperative arrangements with partners abroad declared by its units, and its growing number of international joint publications, which comprised 47.4% of the Institute’s publications in 2012.

Inserm’s international links

These cooperative arrangements involve all research areas in the health and life sciences, and include partners from nearly 100 countries, half of which are in the European Union or its vicinity. The Institute’s main partner is the USA, which accounts for nearly 25% of partnerships.

This cooperative dynamic reflects both the commitment of the teams that initiate and maintain scientific collaborations with their partners, and the impetus provided by Inserm’s Directorate General through the signing of partnership agreements and the establishment of specific schemes for cooperation (European and International Associated Laboratories, European and International Research Groups).

An evolving international landscape

The health and life sciences sector is currently undergoing rapid change, which is particularly marked by the acceleration of scientific and technical progress, and the globalisation of major health-related societal challenges. This rapid evolution, along with the emergence of new scientific powers on the international scene, particularly in Asia and South America, is forcing change in the research landscape and policies of industrialised countries, leading them to rethink their current and future partnerships in a context where collaboration and competition merge.

Inserm’s new strategy for European and international cooperation

In this context, Inserm’s Directorate General began an in-depth review of its policy on cooperation beyond our borders in 2008. This process was based on an analysis of the existing scientific collaborations and institutional partnerships on one hand, and on research trends in the health and life sciences in key present and future partner countries on the other hand. It thus also led to a redefinition of both the priorities and operating procedures for implementing the Institute’s policy internationally.

A new policy for international cooperation which:

  • is part of the National Research Strategy, the international component of which aims to establish a Strategic Orientation Plan to develop and/or strengthen cooperation between France and target countries, whether they are the new emerging scientific powers (China, India and Brazil), traditional partners such as the developed countries of Asia (Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore) or Russia;
  • is organised within the French National Alliance for Life and Health Sciences - Aviesan - which helps to define France’s main directions for European and international cooperation, and develop thematic and geographic priorities for the French Multi-Organisation Thematic Institutes (ITMOs);
  • contributes to setting priorities for the French National Research Agency (ANR) in the area of international cooperation, with respect to the programmatic role of alliances;
  • extends within the European Union and its policy of international scientific and technical cooperation, as implemented under dedicated programmes, the most prominent of which is Horizon 2020.

International Policy and Instruments for intervention

Inserm’s European and international policy is centred around 4 key words: scientific excellence - complementarity - reciprocity - added value.

These guide the improvements made to the Institute’s partnerships and instruments for international cooperation, enabling it to meet the challenges associated with the rapid development currently seen in health and life sciences research, which has been marked by accelerating scientific and technical progress, and the globalisation of major health-related societal challenges.

A new model for cooperation agreements has thus been created, based on the following three operating procedures:

  • exploratory visits of short duration (5-10 days) for promising young researchers (ATIP-Avenir and ERC laureates on the French side), enabling them to discover the scientific and technical potential for life and health sciences in the partner countries, and potentially resulting in high added value scientific collaborations;
  • organisation of thematic science seminars, involving a small number of experts from each side, for prospective discussion around an area of shared interest;
  • assistance in initiating excellent new scientific collaborations by establishing exchange programmes for post-doctoral fellows.

To date, 7 new agreements (LIEN) of this type have been signed by Inserm with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Israel. Others are being discussed or revised, whereas agreements with some of Inserm’s historic partners have endured, enabling short-term student and researcher exchanges as part of joint projects.

To complement this approach, international prospective visits by the Directorate General help to promote the new French research landscape in life and health sciences, to showcase Aviesan and the excellent French research in this area, to compare the latter with its counterparts in other countries, and finally, to identify institutions of excellence as potential partners.

The organisation of prospective science seminars, in association with the ITMOs, helps to expand the possibilities for scientific cooperation in areas of shared interest. These actions may thus lead to the establishment of international collaborations, taking the form of cooperation agreements and/or LI(E)As and more GDRIs (GDREs), in line with the guidelines and criteria for excellence mentioned above.

Inserm’s instruments for international cooperation



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