2000 —

The CNRS, yesterday, today… and tomorrow

A diver investigating a mangrove swamp in Xel-Ha Lagoon, Mexico.

Over nearly 80 years of ceaseless efforts to redefine France’s scientific scene and research policies, the CNRS has demonstrated its tremendous capacity to evolve.

As Jean Perrin liked to say, “the spirit blows where it will”.

Today, as in 1939, the same inspiration continues to drive the researchers, engineers, technicians and all of the personnel of the CNRS, enabling it to take on the major challenges of the new millennium.

As dedicated as ever to its founding values — the quest for excellence and, above all, the freedom of action that lies at its core — the CNRS strives to meet the needs and expectations of a constantly changing world.

An assembly of sensors on a weather mast to be installed in Antarctica.

The quest for excellence and the defence of freedom in research.

An increasingly open world… Ever since its founding, the CNRS has encouraged exchanges among researchers, later opening offices, initiating missions and setting up laboratories in countries all over the world.

A pioneer of multilateral relations in Europe, it has also established itself at the forefront of EU projects. In the 1970s, under the stewardship of its CEO Hubert Curien, the CNRS was instrumental in the creation of the European Science Foundation. From the following decade, it was involved in most of the initiatives that shaped the landscape of European research, dominated to this day by its presence, recognition and international prominence.

A scientist at work aboard a Boeing 747 SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy).
Final alignment check of the spectrograph of the SPIRou near-infrared spectropolarimeter.
Simultaneous emission of five laser beams from the Maïdo observatory on Réunion Island.

5,600 patent families 1,200 active licences 21 framework agreements 1,400 start-ups

An ever-more competitive world…

As of 1939, while cultivating the ideal of “pure and disinterested research” upheld by its founding fathers, the CNRS has forged close relations with a host of economic partners in France and other countries. These links have only grown stronger over the decades.
Today, with more than 5,600 patent families, 1,200 active licences, 21 framework agreements with multinationals and more than 1,400 start-ups launched since 2000, the CNRS is pursuing an ambitious technology transfer policy that boosts French competitivenes on the world stage.

A discussion around a decorated stele in Tsatsyn Ereg, an area of Mongolia marked by more than 3,000 years of nomadism.
Verbal interaction between an engineer and NAO, a humanoid robot.
An ethological observation of feeding behaviour among baboons.

A world whose challenges require all research fields to join forces…

The CNRS was originally created to explore all areas of knowledge and encourage connections between them.

At the laboratory level, covering fields as diverse as energy, materials, the environment or the climate, the organisation promoted interdisciplinarity well before the word even existed!

In the process, it launched wider-scale initiatives, from the first interdisciplinary programmes of the 1970s to the all-round actions it currently conducts by relying in particular on its Mission for Interdisciplinarity.

Building site of excavations of the site of the "Rocher de l'Impératrice", in Plougastel-Daoulas, in Finistere, west of France
Detection of cytokine TSLP in the epithelial cells in form ARN
Scientist observing the distribution, the size and the shape of the crystals in a sample of glass containing tellurium oxide

"Les miroirs les plus parfaits du monde" (EN)

Excerpt from "Les Miroirs les Plus Parfaits du Monde", 2017, 6 min 12 sec. Director: Nicolas Baker Production: CNRS Images Images: Drone photos (Virgo) / Black holes (SXS Collaboration)
→ Vidéothèque


Biologist, scientific director of the Tara Oceans expedition
The life sciences adventurer

Sharing the adventure of advancing the scientific understanding of our Universe.


Specialist in the physico-chemistry of polymers

A tireless inventor set out to conquer the world of plastics


The biologist of the microbial world

Tracing biological evolution on Earth, from the origin of life to the diversification of the major lineages of organisms.


The sleep explorer

The headed the CNRS

2000 — 2003

Geneviève Berger

2003 — 2006

Bernard Larrouturou

2006 — 2010

Arnold Migus

2010 — 2017

Alain Fuchs

2018 —

Antoine Petit