International associated laboratories (LIA)

International associated laboratories (LIAs) are research projects that are jointly carried out by two or more laboratories, including at least one outside of France. They are collaborations without borders. They have any own legal status: the research teams involved retain their own official statuses and modes of operation. LIAs are established via research partnership agreements signed by the governmental entities responsible for the laboratories involved. They are coordinated by researchers from at least two different countries and receive support from a steering committee. Being a LIA increases project visibility and makes it easier to obtain funding from the partner institutes as well as various grant programmes and research agencies.

What are international associated laboratories?

International associated laboratories (LIAs) are laboratories without borders. The purpose of the LIA designation is to officially recognise fixed-duration joint international projects of excellence.

The relationship between the partner laboratories is formally established via a research partnership agreement signed by the heads of the governmental entities responsible for the laboratories involved. This agreement describes the nature of the collaboration and includes provisions on intellectual property rights.

The laboratories forming the LIA retain their autonomy, statuses, and responsibilities. Their research locations remain the same.

Who can be part of an international associated laboratory?

An LIA links a laboratory in one of INRAE's research units (research units [UR] or joint research units [UMR]) with a laboratory in a partner institute abroad. It is possible to include other laboratories, either French or foreign, in the partnership, depending on the research project's requirements and plans for higher-level scientific training. It is important, however, to keep the number of partners small to limit transactional costs.

It is required that LIAs systematically include an establishment of higher education among their partners to improve the conditions under which undergraduate and graduate students are hosted and trained during exchanges.

How long does the association last?

The research partnership agreement is valid for a five-year period. It can be renewed one time if the follow-up project is approved.

Who can apply to create an international associated laboratory?

The request to create an LIA is made by the INRAE research unit coordinating the research project with the approval of all the other partners.

When and how can this application be submitted?

The director of the INRAE research unit coordinating the research project can submit the application at any time to the head of their scientific division. The application should describe the proposed research project, the partners involved, and the project's strategic relevance.

How are the applications evaluated?

Applications are evaluated by both INRAE and the partner institutes. At INRAE, the proposed LIA is assessed by the division head or, alternatively, the metaprogramme head. The resulting report is sent to the relevant members of INRAE's management board, and the final decision is made by the Deputy Director General for Scientific Affairs.

How are international associated laboratories formally established?

When an LIA's creation has been formally approved, INRAE's International Relations Directorate monitors the project's progress as it moves through the different departments that must treat it. The end result is a draft research partnership agreement that includes a description of the research project, the conditions under which the research will be carried out, and the provisions related to intellectual property. The research partnership agreement is negotiated by its different signatories. The final version of the agreement is signed by INRAE's Chair and CEO and the legal representatives of the partner institutes.

How are international associated laboratories funded?

In addition to the funds provided by the governmental entities responsible for the laboratories carrying out the research, INRAE has funding available to help define, establish, and launch LIAs. This funding is awarded by the Vice President of International Policy based on how much the LIA furthers INRAE's international strategy. In other cases, specific support may be provided by one or several research divisions. The proposals that have been received are reviewed in cycles, usually twice a year.

What happens once international associated laboratories are in place?

An LIA's work is monitored and evaluated by a scientific committee and a monitoring committee. Meetings to discuss the LIA's activities and progress take place at least once a year, and the resulting reports are shared with the different partners, divisions, and relevant INRAE boards/delegations.

After the LIA's five-year agreement has come to an end, the coordinators can apply for an extension of up to five years based on the results of a progress report approved by the steering committee. This report must be submitted six months before the initial project ends to the division head, the head of the research centre, and the head of the International Relations Directorate. They send their assessments of the renewal request to the Director General for Scientific Affairs. and the Vice President of International Policy.

At INRAE, the deputy director general for scientific affairs decides the project's fate (renewal, reorientation, or termination) based on the evaluation by the vice president of international policy. An equivalent procedure takes place at the partner institutes.