France and the UK strengthen their ties in scientific cooperation

To mark the 80th birthday of the CNRS, France and UK renew their close ties in the field of scientific cooperation

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On 12 March, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) brought together its British academic and institutional partners, and French manufacturers in the UK, to celebrate its 80th birthday.

The purpose of the event was to highlight the major role the CNRS plays in research and innovation, since it is one of the UK’s preferred academic partners, emphasizing in particular the close link it enjoys with the UK’s research community. The meeting provided a unique opportunity to show that the CNRS values its scientific partnership with British institutions – which is based on robust, long-standing relations – and express the two countries’ commitment to continuing their bilateral cooperation.

Indeed, cooperation between the CNRS and the UK takes the form of strong partnerships drawing on joint institutional action, such as those with Oxford University centring on the Maison française d’Oxford and with Imperial College London, which excels in mathematics with its Abraham de Moivre international research laboratory (UMI), inaugurated in 2018.

Positioning itself as the leading producer of scientific publications in the European Union, with 20% of publications (ahead of Germany and France), the UK occupies a special place in the scientific ecosystem. After the United States, it is France’s second most important partner worldwide in terms of co-publications and ranks third among its partners in terms of normalized citation impact. As regards the volume of joint publications and normalized impact, France is the UK’s third most important partner worldwide.

At institutional level, the CNRS is the UK’s number one foreign co-publication partner. Co-publications with the UK account for 10% of the CNRS’s output.

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The Maison française d’Oxford is strengthening its ties with Oxford University by signing a tripartite cooperation agreement

Since 1946, the Maison française d’Oxford (MFO) has helped maintain the strong relations forged between the CNRS and Oxford University, one of the world’s most renowned universities when it comes to science. The tripartite cooperation agreement will be signed by the CNRS, French Foreign Ministry and Oxford University at the reception celebrating the CNRS’s 80th anniversary year in London, and will aim to broaden the scientific scope of the MFO with a view to interdisciplinarity, and cement its integration within the University. The agreement will also enable the University to increase its representation in the Comité de Paris, the body responsible for overseeing the MFO’s academic strategy.

The French Ambassador to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said: “This agreement will enable us to ensure an ever-closer relationship between the CNRS and the University of Oxford, two excellent institutions with worldwide reputations. I’m delighted by this initiative, because it illustrates how dynamic Franco-British relations are, in particular in the academic field.”
Strengthening ties with universities all over the world is a priority for Oxford University, which has committed itself, through its recently-published strategic plan, to broadening its international strategic research cooperation projects.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Head of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Chair of the MFO’s Oxford Committee, said: “This agreement gives us an opportunity to broaden and deepen relations between the CNRS and Oxford researchers in the university’s four divisions, at a time when it’s essential to lay the foundations for cooperation between the British academic community and its counterparts in Europe.” Frédéric Thibault-Starzyk, Director of the Maison française d’Oxford, added: “The Maison française d’Oxford is delighted to welcome this new partnership. Today’s agreement will have a transformational impact on the MFO, and (…) will thus give our work a higher profile both locally and in the European context.”

Professor Alain Schuhl, CNRS Chief Research Officer, said: “Marking the 80th anniversary of the CNRS at the French Residence together with our British partners is one of the key events of this year of celebrations. My special thanks go to His Excellency, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, France’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, for co-organizing this event, and to Professor Alice Gast, President of ICL, for her testimonial about our high-quality cooperation. Our landmark establishments in the UK and the dense network of projects jointly formed over the years between the CNRS and our British partners are testimony to the vitality and richness of this collaboration, which we are determined to pursue at the highest level. The signing of the agreement extending the activities of the Maison française d’Oxford confirms our commitment to maintaining close cooperation in research.”

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UMI Abraham de Moivre: an example of the diversity and depth of Franco-British ties

On 1 January 2018, Imperial College London linked up with the CNRS, the largest research body in Europe, to create the International Joint Research Unit (UMI) for mathematics, a strong signal of the close ties uniting France and the United Kingdom. Imperial College London is one of the world’s top 10 universities, coming second in terms of the number of publications in the UK, and first in terms of impact in the field of mathematics.

On the basis of this cooperation and the long-standing ties between the two research communities, the two institutions continued to build on their deeper relations by jointly inaugurating the UK’s first international research laboratory on 15 January 2018, to celebrate “New Frontiers in Mathematics”, in the presence of several medal-winning mathematicians such as Martin Hairer and French deputy Cédric Villani.

As the first UMI established jointly by the CNRS and a British institution, the Abraham de Moivre laboratory, which bears the name of the great French mathematician who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries, is the CNRS’s 37th International Joint Research Unit and the 10th in the mathematics field. The project, which involves the highest level of cooperation, puts the Franco-British partnership in mathematics on a long-term footing. It enables improved mobility between the two institutions and is supported by research bursaries.

Abraham de Moivre laboratory today hosts researchers and students from the two institutions under the direction of Richard Craster, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Imperial College, who wants to emphasize fields such as number theory, mathematical analysis, biomathematics and financial mathematics.

In the past five years, researchers from the two institutions have co-published more than 2,700 scientific articles.

Professor Pascal Auscher, Scientific Director of the CNRS National Institute for Mathematical Sciences and their Interactions (INSMI), said: “Dynamic international policy is part of the CNRS’ DNA. Thanks to the large number of French mathematicians on British soil, and the deep-rooted French-British links in mathematics, the collaboration between both countries is extremely fruitful. The institutional agreement creating the UMI Abraham de Moivre will enhance this already well-established common research base.”

French Ambassador to the UK Jean-Pierre Jouyet said: “The launch of this joint initiative reflects the depth and importance of Franco-British collaboration. The CNRS and Imperial College London are global leaders in the field of mathematics, and the UMI Abraham de Moivre will provide a window to reach out to the UK mathematical community at large, via the connections and partnerships established by Imperial College London.”

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “Over the past 12 months, the CNRS and Imperial College have demonstrated the power of Franco-British collaboration. The Abraham de Moivre UMI gathers some of the world’s best researchers to link the power of the mathematical sciences to areas such as artificial intelligence, data science and public health. This partnership is proof of a strong commitment to putting scientific discoveries and collaboration at the service of society, which is at the heart of Imperial’s and the CNRS’s concerns.”

Today, the laboratory’s presence in the heart of ICL’s Department of Mathematics – one of the UK’s most important and highly-acclaimed – puts it in a special place in the British scientific landscape and facilitates access for its members to reception programmes for foreign researchers.

Published on 12/03/2019

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