The CNRS relies on flexibility to adapt to the evolution of global science and the needs of researchers and engineers. Bilateral agreements, concluded with partner countries and their main research and financing institutions, offer many possibilities for collaboration. Various mechanisms enable researchers to engage in long-term scientific cooperation, or to create international research networks for projects bringing together teams from different countries. Higher-education and research institution partners can benefit from these mechanisms.

In Canada, the United States of America and Mexico, the CNRS contributes to scientific research, thanks to structuring collaboration tools.

International Research Laboratories

International Research Laboratories are international schemes in which research work is jointly conducted around a shared scientific focus. They structure, within an identified location, the significant and lasting presence of scientists from a limited number of French and foreign research institutions (a single foreign partner country).

They include facilities that bring together scientists from various research units including international laboratories — International Joint Units (UMI) and Service and Research Units (USR) abroad — which are set up whenever the support of a dedicated Operational Research Structure (SOR) is required.

International Research Laboratories have a duration of five years.

In 2020, there are 15 IRL in North America – 5 in Canada, 7 in the United States, 2 in Mexico & 1 UMIFRE co-directed with the French Ministry for International Affairs.

International Research Project

International Research Projects are collaborative research schemes between one or more CNRS laboratories and one or two laboratories from foreign countries. They strengthen previously-established collaboration through short- and medium-term scientific exchange. They are aimed at organising working meetings or seminars, developing joint research activity including field research, and supervising students. The French and foreign teams concerned must have already shown their capacity to collaborate (for example through one or more joint publications). These programmes have a duration of five years.

In 2020, there are 32 IRP in North America – 14 in Canada, 16 in the Unites States, and 2 in Mexico.