CS at Grenoble

The academic CS and Applied Mathematic community of Grenoble (pôle MSTIC) is quite large for French standard (around 1500: 750 researchers, professors and associate professors, 500 PhD, and the remaining is the support staff). To get an idea, of our comparative size, you may look at the way the CNRS (National Scientific Research Center, our national research agency) maps its employees in its computer science department (http://www.cnrs.fr/ins2i/IMG/pdf/effectifs2018_ins2i.pdf).
Thus, as always in France, CS research is split in numerous collaborating entities. This informal page is just to give you some hints to understand the complex landscape.

The game of name change

The French authorities (whatever the level of hierarchy: from ministries to universities, institutes and laboratories) loves to change the name of the subordinate entities. Every 10 or 20 years, the names change. Few huge entities escape (CNRS, CEA). The name change game dammages the international visibility of the French science. This page try to explain some CS names and related entities at Grenoble.

French “spaghetti” research organization in CS

In France, the universities (the big buildings with some students inside) do not do directly research (I am oversimplifying here). The departments of the universities are mostly teaching departments. The teachers (associate professor and full-time professor) paid by universities, do their half-time research in an administrative entity named “laboratory”. In CS, the laboratory is often supported simultaneously by several entities, namely universities and national research institutes.

Eg. my laboratory, the LIG, is supported by CNRS, INRIA, Univ. Grenoble Alpes (UGA: the Grenoble university: merge of former UJF, UPMF and Stendhal universities) and Grenoble INP (member of the university community Univ. Grenoble Alpes, same name, separate entity) and futur engineering department of UGA (see below). A laboratory is a set of teams (CNRS naming scheme) and project-teams (Inria naming scheme).

In computer science, the number of professors and associate professors paid by universities is much larger than the number of full-time researchers paid by the national institutes (around 600 in Inria and 600 in CNRS, for the whole country, a bit less than Grenoble CS academics (with PhD) alone). Everybody works together in the teams of the laboratories.

Grenoble CS community

The Grenoble academic CS people are composed of roughly 1500 researchers (including PhD students) grouped by thematic entities, named laboratories, such as
LIG (computer science), LJK (applied mathematics), G-SCOP (combinatorial optimization), Gipsa-lab (automation and signal processing), Verimag (checking and system).
This number of 1500 researchers does NOT include CS researchers from private companies of Grenoble, like ST microelectronics, Orange Labs, Naver (Corean Google equivalent, lab. bought from Rank Xerox), Bull, HP (small remains from former glory), etc…

IMAG: one name to rule them all

In early 1960’s, Jean Kuntzmann create the IMAG: “Institut des Mathématiques Appliquées de Grenoble” (Applied Mathematics Institute of Grenoble). The CNRS decides in the 1990’s to split big laboratories in more efficient small laboratories. The federation of laboratories of computer science and applied mathematics took the name IMAG. Around 2005, the CNRS decides to merge small laboratories in more visible large laboratories, splitting Applied Mathematics and Computer Science in separate entities. None could take the name IMAG. Thus, the Applied Mathematics and CS department of the university took the name IMAG. When the department was merge with the “Pure” Mathematics department, the name was change to IM2AG. Thus, when the Applied Mathematics and CS common building was build in 2016, the researchers chose by vote to name the building IMAG.

The Internet domain “imag.fr” is quite active and the constant email domain name of the community.

Note that in 2016, the university of Montpellier changes the name of its mathematics Laboratory from I3M to IMAG . This name is completely unrelated to Grenoble.

LIG laboratory

My former laboratory, namely ID merged with 7 other small laboratories to become LIG from a previous federation named IMAG build with the splitting of previous laboratories. Now (2018) around 25 teams, with around 450 CS researchers, including PhD students. It is supported by the two Grenoble universities (Univ. Grenoble-Alpes and Grenoble-INP), the CNRS and partly (half of the teams) by the national research agency in computer science and automation (Inria).

IMAG building (previously named Pilsi)

Former president Sarkozy sells part of EDF (Electricity of France) in order to finance big projects in few big universities. Thus, 6 years later, we got part of the money and start build a big computer science building on the campus. 700 people works in the building: 1 floor for the LJK, 0.5 floor Verimag, 2.5 floors of the LIG (bottom to top order).

Univ. Grenoble-Alpes (U.G.A.): two entities with a single name in a merging process

The Shanghai ranking induces major structural changes for international visibility. After the student riots of 1968, the french universities were splited by thematic (Natural science (including math and CS), Human science (including economy), Languages). Now, the numerous small universities are being merge to become more visible.

UJF, UPMF and Stendahl were merged together in Univ. Grenoble Alpes (UGA, the university), member of Univ. Grenoble Alpes (the COMUE, community of university) with Grenoble-INP, architecture school, management school and Univ. of Savoie. Local branches of national research institutes are also associated in the entity: CEA, CNRS, Inserm, Inria.

Univ. Grenoble-Alpes was formally created in 2016, after some false start in 2013, 2014, 2015. In 2017, it is French in range 101-150 in Shangaï Ranking of TOP 200 Scientific Universities, with Bordeaux and Lyon, after Paris 6, Paris Sud, Strasbourg, Normale, X, and Paris 7. It is French 7-9th in range 151-200 TOP 500 Univertities with Bordeaux et Paris 5 after Paris 6, Paris 11, Normale, Aix-Marseille, Strasbourg, Paris 7.

Around 2018, the fusion continue: Grenoble-INP is becoming the engineering department of Univ. Grenoble-Alpes (the university). Polytech Grenoble shall also be part of it. The merge should be in place in 2020.

The confusion with one common name for two administrative entities is absolutely voluntary. The final goal is a single entity, hopefully, named Univ. Grenoble Alpes.

Grenoble INP

Grenoble-INP (GrenobleTech: Grenoble Institute of Technology) is a science university composed of a pool of engineering schools “à la française” (i.e. delivering full Master of Science and PhD). It starts in early 1900: at that time, the Universities do not want to do “applied” science and the French defeat of 1870 was analysed as partly due to the low level of technical education. For example, at that time, the Grenoble university asked for Chemistery professor position instead of Electricity, a new applied gadget quite successful in the area including in the formations organised outside the university. The French government decided to create, outside Paris, three Polytechnic Institutes at Toulouse (Electricity, then Planes), Nancy (Mines) and Grenoble (Electricity, then Nuclear physics).
It changes its name in 2008 from INP Grenoble (INPG) and even before IPG. Engineering school names change too in 2008. ENSIMAG becomes Ensimag (Yes ! We fight to grossly keep the old name. And, if you ask, cases matter too :-) ). Around 5500 students (2017) are registered at Grenoble-INP (1200 graduations per year, 200 PhD per year).

Physicists need computer.

Grenoble-INP (In fact, at that time IPG) was created after an electricity lecture success (Grenoble was the French industrial electricity birth place in the end of 19th century) but the reluctance of Grenoble University to create a chair in a such applied stuff. Mid-20th, nuclear physicists settle large research facilities. And physicists need computer. Prof. Jean Kuntzman succeeds to bring one of the first computer of France at Grenoble (1957), for research in applied mathematics purpose. Thus, IPG create a department of computer science. This department became later Ensimag.


Joseph Fourier University (UJF) was a classical science university. It is quite large by French standard (17000 students). It merged with UPMF and Stendhal into the Univ. Grenoble-Alpes .


Inria is the national research agency in computer science and automation. For my team, it gives around 40% of the funding of the team (including salary). It finances also well the administrative management of the team. Its direct participation in the “life” of larger entities containing the teams is quite sparse.
INRIA became Inria (Same communication fashion victim as INPG ?) in 2011.


CNRS is the national research agency in absolutely everything (physic, mathematics, biology, economy, archaeology, chemistry, Egyptology, humanities, glaciology, … See section list ). The 6th and 7th section of CNRS, among 41, are Computer Sciences. These sections of CNRS are roughly the same size as the Inria. Its direct funding to my team is much smaller than Inria, but it participates a lot to the laboratory “life” (systems administrators, network administrators, library’s staff, administrative staff of the laboratories).


In order to confuse enemy, the department of computer science of UJF change its name from UFR IMA to UFR IMAG and now UFR IM2AG (see IMAG above). UFR IM2AG joined the former Computer Science and Applied Mathematics department with the former department of Mathematics.

Master of Science in Computer Science

Thus, there are still two scientific universities: Grenoble INP (small, a pool of engineering schools) and Univ. Grenoble-Alpes (large, standard university). Both deliver Master of Science in Computer Science. All lectures on research topics of the 2nd year of Master and later in PhD are common to both university.

PhD diploma are given by the common entity Univ. Grenoble-Alpes (the COMUE, not the university).

Polytech Grenoble

Univ. Grenoble-Alpes has also its own engineering school “a la française”, delivering also a MSc in computer science. Its CS department is named RICM. To confuse enemies, it joins a group on engineering schools related to universities named Polytech. There is no link with Grenoble-INP, member of the national polytechnic institute group (INP).

In 2019, Grenoble-INP and Polytech should merge in an engineering department of Univ. Grenoble Alpes.


Grenoble-INP was translated in English in Grenoble Institute of Technology (git !). The name is changing to GrenobleTech.

In summary, former National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble will be name GrenobleTech, and the unrelated Engineering School of UGA is named PolyTech Grenoble.

University of Grenoble became the COMUE Univ. Grenoble-Alpes

In 2009, a new entity appears: the Grenoble University and disappear with the creation of the COMUE Univ. Grenoble-Alpes. Former Grenoble University and now the COMUE Univ. Grenoble-Alpes are not a completely empty shell as they deliver the PhD diploma. Foreign exchange were also signed under their umbrella.


Université Intégré (UI), integrated university is the code name of the fusion of UGA and and Grenoble-INP.This code name should not occurs anywhere save in the fusion document.

Graduation (Licence) and Master: 3+2 are just theoretical boundaries, studies are still fully organised 2+2+1.

Since Bologna protocol, the university diploma are delivered after 3 (Licence) and 5 (Master) years of studies at the university. But every lectures, studies, gateway between courses and teaching departments are still completely organized with the old system of 2, 4 and 5 years at the university and in the engineering schools.