UArizona Partners With French National Centre for Scientific Research to Establish France-Arizona Institute for Global Grand Challenges

biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 was part of what made UArizona an ideal partner for CNRS. The facility is the only place in the world where scientists can simulate climate change and study its effects on entire ecosystems in one location.

The University of Arizona and the French National Centre for Scientific Research signed a research collaboration agreement today to establish a new international research center focused on the environment, space science, data science and global climate change.  

This historic partnership between the university and CNRS establishes the France-Arizona Institute for Global Grand Challenges at the University of Arizona. The institute will address critical research areas through large-scale international collaboration, innovation and exchange of resources through a high-level strategic dialogue between the two partners.

With more than 1,100 research laboratories in France and on five continents, CNRS is an interdisciplinary public research organization and represents the largest fundamental leading research institution in Europe. CNRS is at the forefront of scientific advancement, operating globally with more than 15,000 researchers and nearly 17,000 engineers and technicians.

From telescopes to particle accelerators to super-computers, CNRS is involved in the design and development of very large-scale research facilities used across disciplines.

Robert C. Robbins

Robert C. Robbins

"We are incredibly honored the University of Arizona has entered this historic partnership with CNRS," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "The France-Arizona Institute for Global Grand Challenges will be able to amplify our existing research strengths and international research collaborations in ways we could not achieve on our own, allowing the University and CNRS to address truly global challenges with global solutions that expand human potential, explore new horizons and enrich life for all."

The new institute will support UArizona-CNRS projects that address a variety of natural, social and digital grand challenges. Those projects will tackle issues such as sustainability and resilience in arid lands; how visible and invisible biospheres connect, respond and feed back to global change; the nature of dark matter and dark energy; and equitability in the digital revolution.

CNRS has worked with UArizona on numerous projects in the past, in fields such as physics, optics, mathematics, ecology, social sciences, biomedical sciences and more. CNRS is formalizing its partnership with the university after an international search to identify strategic partners with potential for strong, lasting collaboration in areas of major significance for science and society.

"Global challenges simply require global solutions," Robbins said during the signing ceremony. "Working in partnership provides our institutions the opportunity to create and innovate in unique ways that we could not attempt or accomplish on our own. And our aspirations and goals are very bold. We look forward to the center being a hub of global collaboration for the Americas – a point of entry and exchange with the rest of the world and for our hemisphere."

In 2007, CNRS and UArizona launched the iGLOBES International Research Laboratory, focused on water resources, climate change and sustainability. The lab's name, iGLOBES, stands for Interdisciplinary Global Environmental Studies and is a collaborative research hub hosted by the university's Biosphere 2 and co-operated by Paris Sciences & Lettres University and one of its schools, Ecole Normale Supérieure. Operated by a small team of CNRS researchers, iGLOBES organizes 30 to 40 visits of French scientists every year to study natural resource management and societal responses to environmental change.

Biosphere 2 was part of what made UArizona an ideal partner for CNRS. The unique glass-domed research facility is the only place in the world where scientists can simulate climate change and study its effects on entire ecosystems – from tropical forests to arid lands to oceans – in one location. UArizona is also a world leader in space science and exploration, operating more than 25 telescopes, engaging in all NASA missions since Apollo and revolutionizing scientific understanding of matter and energy. And by uniquely bridging mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, optics and engineering, UArizona is inventing theories and materials for the digital future.

Antoine Petit

Antoine Petit

"I am delighted that we have reached a new milestone with the University of Arizona, with whom the CNRS had already established several collaborations in astrophysics, the environment, volcanology and planetology," Antoine Petit, chairman and CEO of CNRS, said in a statement. "The creation of this IRC will give our cooperation new momentum and will foster novel and ambitious projects centered on the great challenges facing our planet."

The France-Arizona Institute for Global Grand Challenges will promote international collaboration and exchange, especially in the areas of social and environmental sciences; space sciences and physics; and mathematical, information and communication sciences. Additionally, it will provide opportunities for international experience to graduate students from UArizona and French partner universities of CNRS, create international networks for faculty and graduate students of UArizona and CNRS partner universities, and advance academic research collaborations between UArizona and CNRS in existing and promising new research areas.

"The creation of the France-Arizona Institute for Global Grand Challenges positions us to take our collaborative research to new heights, addressing challenges in all the areas in which we already shine, from environmental studies of climate change and biodiversity loss to astronomy and astrophysics – allowing us to detect exoplanets and advance the science of black holes," Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation, said in a statement. "All research conducted under our new international institute will explore issues of critical societal importance, paving the way for a brighter and more equitable future."

"The University of Arizona, historic partner of the CNRS and leader in ecology and space research, was an obvious choice for this first IRC," Alain Schuhl, deputy CEO for Science at CNRS, said in a statement, adding that "half of the CNRS's institutes are highly involved in well-established projects with the university, while the other institutes are currently consolidating their cooperation with this partner."

Graduate student researchers will also play a key role in the new institute. Starting this year, both UArizona and CNRS will annually grant up to five new graduate students three-year fellowships to support their participation in collaborative UArizona-CNRS projects.

Within its first five years, the institute will set out to lead five major grant-funded projects that produce impactful solutions to global challenges.