Updated 08/09/20

IRD's operations cover a range of activities : partnership research, scientific co-publications with researchers from the intertropical and Mediterranean zone and support for research teams from these countries, provision of expertise and advice, participation in the International Development Agenda, and so on. In all its actions, the Institute ensures that its interdisciplinary, intersectoral and multi-partner strategy is complemented by excellence in disciplinary science.

Lengguru 2014 : Exploration des fonds marins

© Régis Hocdé/IRD

Our missions

IRD's principal mission is to generate science centred on the intertropical and Mediterranean zone and founded on equitable scientific partnership with the higher education and research communities (ESR) of the countries and regions concerned.

This mission has a dual purpose:

  • Contributing to advances in scientific knowledge in matters of sustainable development 
  • Helping to give development policies a better grounding in science.


Cutting-edge scientific research

 The IRD is a leading international player in scientific research on sustainable development and global issues [Scientific rigour and excellence];

The research carried out at IRD is structured around major areas linked to global issues (global warming, environmental changes, inequalities, resource crisis, etc.):


Equitable partnerships, built on shared objectives and resources

Woven into the fabric of French research via joint research units with universities and public research institutions, IRD maintains close contact with the French scientific community.

IRD's involvement in the French research arena continues to grow, using new tools that guide the coordination of ESR actors on key areas: alliances and investments for the future.

Through its missions and expertise, the Institute has the capacity to rally scientific communities around sustainable development challenges and build bridges between research and development.

IRD thus helps scientific communities emerge in developing countries, strengthening and empowering them while also bringing them international recognition, through actions aligned with a resolute commitment to the strategy of partnership and equitable cooperation.

By activating or encouraging the creation of coalitions of actors, IRD paves the way for its partners to tackle development challenges and helps them plan solutions.

In each of its domains, the Institute strives to bring science to fuel international reflection on pressing issues, while calling on research actors to support the institutions concerned.

The IRD acts by advocating and tirelessly implementing this principle of equitable scientific partnership.


Sharing knowledge 

Another intrinsic part of research activity is the dissemination of scientific information and the sharing of knowledge. These play a key role in advancing the competencies of scientific communities, and enhancing citizens' capacity to face the multiple challenges of sustainable development.

IRD is vigorously committed to the "Open Science" policy, driven by France and the European Union. Free access to information is a priority for IRD and its partners in developing countries. 

The Institute believes that knowledge sharing means actively contributing to the dialogue between science and society. It therefore organises science events and exhibitions, presenting them throughout the world via the French cultural network. It also participates in flagship events, holds conferences, debates and workshops, puts on film screenings and provides innovative educational tools for young people in France and in partner countries of the Global South. 

Lastly, the online scientific news platform IRD Le Mag provides another way to share knowledge with society, through news articles, dossiers, debates, reports, etc. on the publications of IRD researchers and their partners. This is truly science "in the making", as close as possible to current events in the labs and on the field.


Promotion and innovation

IRD collaborates with all public and private actors working on sustainable development issues, through a research approach based on co-creation: a process that seeks to change lifestyles or economic models.

The Institute thus acts as a driving force for open and responsible innovation, stimulating the innovation ecosystems of developing countries.

Promotion of research is a key part of all IRD's missions, and takes the following shape:

  • intellectual property and economic development strategies specific to research;
  • long-term public-private partnerships;
  • tools and mechanisms that encourage, facilitate and assist co-creation;
  • open and responsible innovations, founded on interaction with the Institute's partners.
Lengguru 201 : Fonds marins de Papouasie occidentale

© Régis Hocdé/IRD

Our goal

Scientific excellence in partnership

IRD conducts research in around fifty countries throughout the intertropical zone – across Africa, Latin America, Asia, Oceania – and Mediterranean regions, operating in equitable scientific partnership with the research institutions of these countries.

One of IRD's objectives is to build the ESR (Higher Education for Research) capacities of its partner countries.

This serves a dual purpose: to contribute to advances in universal science, and to meet the needs of the countries' populations, particularly the most vulnerable ones.

IRD is at the forefront of international science, collaboratively producing rigorous scientific material that informs decision-makers and fuels public policies. 


Leading the way in sustainable development science and its key issues

IRD takes an original approach to research, expertise, training and knowledge-sharing for the benefit of countries and regions, making science and innovation key drivers in their development.

IRD sets its priorities in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), combining operations with critical analysis.

Adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) guide policies concerning sustainable development and the key issues facing us today: global, environmental, economic, social and cultural changes that affect the planet as a whole.

IRD aligns its operations with the Sustainable Development Goals. This is particularly reflected in the structure and aims of its research approach: a partnership with the countries of the intertropical and Mediterranean zone. One aspect that IRD strives to emphasise is the importance of scientifically examining the interactions and/or trade-offs between SDGs.


  • Science is at the very source of SDGs; without science, there is no way to apprehend the complex chains of cause-and-effect that affect the dynamics of the planetary system and the well-being of populations.
  • SDGs cannot be attained without the science that enables the emergence of "win/win" solutions and innovations to tackle global changes.
  • Although SDGs are universal, the priorities for implementing them differ according to the level of development and realities of each region.
  • In developing countries, particularly in Africa, it is essential to build capacities for higher education and research systems. The reason is twofold: not only must these countries achieve the overall advances in knowledge required to take on SDGs, they must also ensure they have sufficient expertise of their own to successfully implement them.


IRD's strategic priorities are thus structured around SDG implementation and critical analysis.

The IRD therefore promotes interdisciplinary coordination and intersectoral scientific approaches to SDGs, for instance through seminal, interdisciplinary scientific partnership programmes (PSIP).


IRD, a driving force for change : enhancing the impact of research

Without appropriate solutions, without relevant technological drivers, without grounded innovations, there is no hope of attaining the SDGs.

Enhancing the impact of research in countries of the Global South is part of IRD's core strategy of equitable scientific partnership, an approach founded on the co-construction of programmes and on a spirit of responsibility and accountability towards developing countries.

The Institute's commitment to a responsible innovation process is fuelled by growing awareness of its contribution to the emergence of "common" goods. Indeed, the Institute’s researchers have a long history in this area, participating in the protection of local "commons" in the Global South (forests, water resources, soils, biodiversity hot spots) and creating a considerable number of "information commons".

Consequently, responsible innovation and commons theory encourage IRD to adopt an approach that promotes differentiated solutions adapted to local contexts for its commercial exploitation activities.

In terms of training, the objective is also to develop actions in conjunction with partners, with a view to training future researchers in key sustainable development topics and contributing to the creation of networks of research lecturers and researchers in the Global South.