First workshop of the International Research Center (IRC) CNRS-U. Chicago Discovery

A CNRS delegation visited Chicago from June 5 to 7 to participate to the launching of the CNRS – University of Chicago International Research Center on Fundamental Scientific Discovery (IRC Discovery).

© University of Chicago

The IRC “Discovery”, inaugurated in November 2022, aims to establish a strategic dialogue with the University of Chicago, a major academic partner of the CNRS, in order to drive large-scale projects aimed at reflecting and responding together to the major challenges of our world. This IRC is the fourth partnership of this kind in the world, and the second in the United States.

The aim of the meeting was to further explore synergies between the two institutions, and in particular to define the first IRC’s scientific priorities. A delegation from the CNRS, comprising around twenty scientists and managers from the institution, met with a delegation of scientists and representatives from the University of Chicago to discuss the subject. Participants included, for CNRS, Antoine Petit, Chairman and CEO, Alain Schuhl, Deputy CEO for Science, and for the University of Chicago, Paul Alivisatos, President, and Juan de Pablo, Executive Vice President for Science, Innovation, National Laboratories, and Global Initiatives.

The meeting featured three workshops, in the fields of humanities and social sciences, biological sciences and quantum sciences. These workshops enabled CNRS researchers and their University of Chicago counterparts to exchange ideas and identify potential collaborative research initiatives based on existing cooperations and common interests on further developments. The discussions revealed clear complementarity and expertise. The humanities and social sciences workshop highlighted the need to create an International Research Laboratory (IRL). The biology working group stressed the importance of capitalizing on the existence of strong marine biology communities at both CNRS and the University of Chicago. Finally, during the quantum sciences workshop, it was pointed out that student mobility was essential in this field. In this context, the participants expressed the intention to develop attractive international programs for students and post-docs.

Feedback from the biological sciences workshop (© CNRS)

CNRS visit to the Argonne National Laboratory (© CNRS)

During this visit, CNRS management had the opportunity to visit the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, as well as the Argonne National Laboratory. The Polsky Center is a vehicle for entrepreneurship that supports two sector-specific accelerator programs and investment opportunities dedicated to transforming technological innovations into startups (Duality, on support for innovative companies in the field of quantum technologies, and Transform, aimed at early-stage companies using advances in data science and artificial intelligence). CNRS itself is heavily involved in supporting the creation of start-ups, via its subsidiary CNRS Innovation, which represents an interesting potential for cooperation between the two institutions. Argonne, for its part, is a multidisciplinary scientific and technical research center created in 1946 by the US Department of Energy and the University of Chicago, initially to support and accompany the country’s research efforts in the use of nuclear energy. Numerous collaborations between CNRS and the DoE are already underway and the IRC could benefit from the University’s relationships with Argonne.

While this first workshop focused on the humanities and social sciences, biological sciences and quantum sciences, discussions were also held to explore the feasibility of collaborations in other disciplines, particularly chemistry. These exchanges could lead the IRC to strengthen its multidisciplinary scientific expertise. For their part, the two Presidents have committed to support the development of projects to be carried out within the IRC framework in order to continue advancing the work of scientific discovery.

The IRC is an ambitious, long-term scheme designed to deepen an existing dialogue between the CNRS and an international partner of excellence. This intangible structure strengthens cooperation between the two institutions by establishing new collaborations to meet jointly decided research objectives. IRC Discovery represents the final stage in the integration of CNRS’s long-standing collaboration with the University of Chicago, which has already included bilateral projects and networks, joint theses and numerous co-publications.

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