Basic research in physics: understanding nature and addressing societal challenges

The Institute of Physics (INP) of the CNRS administers over 70 laboratories and works to structure its various scientific communities. Its research covers a vast disciplinary field: the sciences of matter from the scale of subatomic particles to solids, radiation and all its interactions with matter, as well as the fundamental laws governing the physical world.

Research ranging from fundamental physics to interdisciplinary science

Physics has a very broad field of applications. This ranges from elementary particles to cosmology and from matter to waves. It also extends as far as micro- and nano-technologies, as well to chemical and biological processes. Physics is defined not only by the object of study but also by the approach, method and tools used. The INP strongly encourages interdisciplinary research with solid roots in its core subjects, an essential ingredient for a successful cross-fertilization of ideas. Thus, physicists design methods and tools (instruments, software and theoretical approaches) which go on to be used by communities working in other disciplines.

A community of over 6000 people

The INP federates scientific communities to work on ambitious targeted projects via the research structures that it oversees:

  • 75 research and service units
  • 10 research federations
  • 25 research networks

These structures bring together CNRS researchers, technicians and engineers, along with research and support staff from the stakeholders with whom the CNRS jointly manages its laboratories. These are mainly universities and other research organizations such as the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) or the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). In total, in terms of personnel this represents:

  • 3,500 researchers and academics (including 1,220 from the CNRS)
  • 1,620 engineers and technicians (including 1,030 from the CNRS)
  • 1,820 PhD and postdoctoral fellows

A beacon of top-level research

Physics contributes to the progress and reputation of all French sciences at the highest international level. The fourteen Nobel Prize awards to French physicists testify to this. The last three were awarded to: Albert Fert in 2007 for his discovery of giant magnetoresistance and his contribution to the development of spintronics; to Serge Haroche in 2012 for the development of pioneering experimental methods enabling the measurement and manipulation of individual quantum systems; and to Gérard Mourou in 2018 for the development of a method for generating ultra-short, high-intensity optical pulses.

A significant international presence

Currently, two thirds of the INP's scientific publications result from international collaborations. The international visibility of the INP is based on coherent international partnerships, particularly in Europe, Canada, Japan, the United States, Latin America, Russia, China and Singapore. This has led to several forms of collaborative structures including:

  • 3 International Research Laboratories,
  • 21 International Research Projects,
  • 12 International Research Networks,
  • 58 International Emerging Actions.

An active innovation strategy

The INP is committed to promoting research developed in its laboratories. It encourages new partnerships to help satisfy society's need for innovation. It works upstream to detect, evaluate and stimulate the innovative potential of its teams' and units' projects and then supports their initiators in the development and transfer of innovations and of breakthrough technologies.

  • 68 start-ups in operation created by laboratories (cf.
  • 45 patents filed per year
  • 16  joint research structures with companies (cf.

A significant scientific production

The publication of the results of their work is critical for physicists.  It is the first step in the dissemination and the transfer of their basic research and leaves a lasting trace of their work. The main objective of publications is for them to be read, compared with other results, and then to have their subjects taken further.

  • 7500  publications annually (15% of CNRS production, 6% of world physics production),
  • 60% of publications are interdisciplinary and jointly written with members of other Institutes - 16% with the Institute of Chemistry (INC), 20% with the Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS),
  • 40% of the INP's publications cover themes other than physics. This is a strong indicator of the interdisciplinarity of the research carried out in the Institute's laboratories.