Unique in its missions and its approach, the Institute stands out for the wealth of scientific partnerships it has established with countries of the Global South.

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.

Indeed, IRD's chief ambition 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.

Through its focus on developing countries (DEP) and presence in the French Overseas Territories, IRD thus aims to enable all French systems of Higher Education and Research (ESR) to adopt a model of equitable scientific partnership, in direct contrast to the traditional model of North/South relations, wherein researchers from developing countries often remain subordinate to objectives set by "northern" ones. The Institute thus seeks to become a key driving force in the streamlined establishment of French ESR in developing countries, fostering a model of partnership research in which scientific endeavour is no longer a matter of working "for" but of working "with".

Global health, governance, inequality and poverty, mobility and migration, climate and global change, ocean, natural risks, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, ecosystems and resources: these are some of the topics addressed in a multidisciplinary approach targeting the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.

IRD is at the forefront of international science, collaboratively producing rigorous scientific material that informs decision-makers and fuels public policies. For all of IRD's joint research units (UMRs), the proportion of scientific papers co-published with scientists from the Global South is twice the world average, with 2.9 % reaching the top 1 % of citations in their topic and 15.8 % in the top 10 %. Collaboration between IRD's joint research units and partners in the Global South improves the visibility of publications (bibliometric analysis of the Institute's academic production results conducted between 2012 and 2016).