PressCNRS international magazine

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CNRS in brief

The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research) is a government-funded research organization, under the administrative authority of France's Ministry of Research.


Founded in 1939 by governmental decree, CNRS has the following missions:

  • Evaluating and carrying out all research capable of advancing knowledge as well as that having social, cultural, and economic benefits for society
  • Contributing to the application and promotion of research results
  • Developing scientific information, and promoting the use of the French language
  • Supporting training for and through research
  • Participating in the analysis of the national and international scientific climate and its potential for evolution in order to develop a national policy

CNRS research units are spread throughout France, and a large body of permanent researchers, engineers, technicians, and administrative staff works at these units. Laboratories are all on four-year contracts, renewable, with bi-annual evaluation. There are two types of labs:

  • CNRS-only labs: fully funded and managed by CNRS
  • Joint labs: partnered with universities, other research organizations, or industry

As the largest fundamental research organization in Europe, CNRS is involved in all scientific fields, organized in the following areas of research:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Nuclear and High-Energy Physics
  • Engineering Sciences
  • Communication and Information
  • Technology and Sciences
    Environmental Sciences
  • Life Sciences
  • Humanities and Social Sciences

Promoting inter-disciplinarity in order to improve knowledge, ensure economic
and technological development or solve complex societal problems is one of the major objectives of CNRS' interdisciplinary programs. CNRS conducts some twenty interdisciplinary programs in several fields:

  • Life and its social challenges
  • Information, communication and knowledge
  • Environment, energy and sustainable development
  • Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials
  • Astroparticles

Its annual budget represents one-quarter of French public spending on civilian research. This funding comes from various sources:

  • Government and public funding
  • CNRS funds, primarily from industrial and EU research contracts and royalties on patents, licenses, and services provided.

… And figures

Budget for 2005
€2.299 billion of which €333 million come from revenues generated by CNRS

26,080 permanent employees – 11,664 researchers and 14,416 engineers and technical staff


  • 1256 research and service units – 85% are joint laboratories, 15% are CNRS-only units
  • €20 million devoted yearly to interdisciplinary research programs

Industrial Relations in 2005

  • 3901 contracts signed with industry
  • 37 framework agreements and 65 Joint research
    units with industrial partners
  • €132 million of revenues generated from contracts
    (EU contracts not included)
  • 7442 Patents in CNRS portfolio
    (238 deposited and 239 PCT)
  • 578 Active licenses
  • €50 million of royalties
  • 190 start-ups created since 1999


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