The University of Chicago and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) signed an agreement on Nov. 30 to establish the International Research Center for Fundamental Scientific Discovery (IRC Discovery), a new collaboration that will bring together some of the world’s leading researchers to collaborate on answering the biggest questions of our time. The signing by President Alivisatos and CNRS President and CEO Antoine Petit took place in Washington, DC, during French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit.
IRC Discovery is only the fourth CNRS International Research Center in the world and the second in the U.S. Anchored on UChicago’s Hyde Park campus and CNRS headquarters in Paris, it will convene researchers across disciplines to identify large-scale interdisciplinary projects in energy, communication technologies, climate, mobility, health, and political and social sciences, to name a few. Combining research capabilities at UChicago and the CNRS’s 1,144 affiliated research labs and 30,000-plus dedicated researchers, engineers and technicians, this new center will leverage robust networks and large-scale investments in scientific infrastructures.
“Addressing the world’s greatest challenges requires deliberate international partnership that brings together intellectual assets and infrastructure at scale,” said President Paul Alivisatos. “This new partnership is a great example of peer institutions committing their resources to reduce barriers to effective collaboration and accelerate solutions to global issues.”
“IRC Discovery represents the culmination of the efforts of many across the University of Chicago, the CNRS, and the French government,” said Juan de Pablo, Executive Vice President for Science, Innovation, National Laboratories, and Global Initiatives at the University of Chicago. “With significant support from UChicago Global, IRC Discovery will foster collaborative research across all disciplines and facilitate collaboration across our institutions’ vast resources – in CNRS’s case, the largest fundamental science agency in Europe, which houses and has access to top minds, facilities, and funding agencies in the region.
“As the CNRS is multidisciplinary by nature, we seek prestigious partners with equivalent capabilities, with whom we can work hand in hand to pursue basic research for the benefit of society and find solutions to the societal challenges we are facing,” said Antoine Petit, the chairman and chief executive officer of the CNRS. “IRCs enable the leadership of the CNRS to communicate directly with its counterpart at the partnering institution, in order to provide responses that meet the ambitions of scientists in conducting their projects.”
By consolidating research and educational initiatives and developing a dynamic hub of activity between UChicago and the CNRS, IRC Discovery is positioned to scale up and amplify the impact of fundamental discovery. It will provide a venue for collaborative research and student exchange as well as additional programming such as joint workshops and public-facing events. Researchers with IRC Discovery will have access to resources from the CNRS and UChicago, including the University’s expanded physical footprint in Paris, a new Jeanne Gang-designed building and research institute now under construction.
IRC Discovery is the latest expansion in a deep, long-standing relationship between UChicago and France. It builds on U.S-France Science and Technology Cooperation, a framework that underscores the importance the two countries place on prioritizing research collaboration on wide-ranging topics such as quantum science and sustainability, as well as the UChicago-CNRS Research Collaboration Program, which supports research and training for Ph.D. students at both institutions. The UChicago/France relationship also reflects the strong bonds between Chicago and Paris, as well as the research potential of regional initiatives such as the Chicago Quantum Exchange.
UChicago and the CNRS have nurtured close research relationships for decades. While most of the collaboration has revolved around physics, chemistry, astronomy and astrophysics, other areas of co-publications attest to a wide range of collaboration across disciplines such as mathematics, biology, environmental sciences and the humanities. Over the past several years, the relationship between UChicago and the CNRS has been broadened under several expanded partnership programs and themes, and the broader scope of IRC Discovery will facilitate greater cross-disciplinary collaboration between the institutions.