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Partnership - Microsoft, Andrew Herbert, Michel Cosnard, Valérie Pécresse


Microsoft and Inria renew their collaboration

After three years of a collaboration that has produced a great deal of recognised and promising scientific findings, Microsoft and Inria are confirming the continuance of their partnership. With Valérie Pécresse, French Minister for Higher Education and Research, and Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft in attendance, Michel Cosnard, Chairman and CEO of Inria and Andrew Herbert, Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, signed a fresh agreement renewing the running of their joint research centre for a four year term.

The challenge of a joint research centre has been met

After three years of collaboration, the Inria-Microsoft Research joint research centre in Orsay hosted within the Inria Saclay -Île-de-France centre, has found its place in the international scientific research landscape. It has become an attractive research centre for the best students worldwide and a stimulating forum for Inria and Microsoft researchers.
Microsoft and Inria's researchers are accompanied in their work by talented PhD students and post-doctoral students, and are working in two fields, namely software security and reliability on the one hand, and interaction between computing and other sciences on the other. The first area involves techniques to make software increasingly reliable and secure – essential at a time when software is omnipresent in everyday life. The second area consists of helping scientists across all disciplines to use computers to speed up the pace of their research within fields as diverse as health and sustainable development.
Michel Cosnard, Chairman and CEO of Inria, sees the Inria-Microsoft Research joint research centre as the natural extension of a long tradition, "European research and educational standards have always been excellent in the fields of theoretical computer science and mathematics, and more especially in France. By joining forces and pooling their expertise and exploring promising challenges, Microsoft and Inria researchers are opening new avenues in software programming and standardisation, and are also providing the scientific world with new categories of tool enabling them to speed up the pace of progress. Results are already impressive; however, the most important element is the quality of relationships between the researchers from the two entities, built on mutual respect and trust. The very high standard of results obtained by our researchers demonstrates that the best is born from mutual enhancement of cultures."
The centre's scientific activities are showing promising results reflecting the excellence and international influence of the work conducted since 2006, with a total of 118 technical reports and publications, including 18 articles published in peer-reviewed international science journals and 44 publications accepted at prominent international conferences.

Output from the centre's scientific activities over three years:

  • 3 PhD theses presented (Bologna, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris Sud university)
  • 9 theses to come in 2009 and 2010
  • 2 exhibitions at the Académie des Sciences in Paris
  • 7 software packages (ssreflect, sessions, tls-verif, tla-pm, ddmf, reactivity, gecode)
  • A scientific report describing the activities of the Inria-Microsoft Research joint research centre between 2006 and 2008 was published in February 2009.

Since 2006, 34 young researchers of nine different nationalities have participated in Joint Centre projects, including 18 PhD students who produced all or part of their dissertation at the centre, plus 16 post-docs. They are supervised by 37 public sector researchers, not just from Inria, but also from the CNRS, the Ecole Normale Supérieure and Paris-Sud university – and by 14 Microsoft researchers from laboratories in Cambridge (UK), Redmond (USA) and Silicon Valley (USA).

In pursuit of shared scientific ambitions

On the strength of the success of the work they have conducted since 2006, Inria and Microsoft are signing a fresh four-year agreement enabling their teams to extend their projects and attack new challenges.
The following are some of those challenges, lying at the heart of the work initiated since this collaboration began, and that researchers plan to meet over the coming months:

  • in mathematics, computer formalisation of the classification of all finite groups (1) (algebra), which will be a first step towards providing the mathematical community with demonstration tools that can genuinely be used by non-computer scientist mathematicians.
  • creation of a Wikipedia of mathematical functions intended for a very wide audience.
  • and in the field of trusted computer systems, the definition of a formal language for IT security policies and a natural demonstration of distributed computing protocols.
  • Lastly, one of the areas of the more recent research initiated within the Inria-Microsoft Research joint research centre involves the analysis of image and video archives. It combines researchers from three Inria laboratories having world-beating experience in the field of computerised image and video processing (Paris-Rocquencourt, Grenoble – Rhône Alpes and Rennes-Bretagne Atlantique) and from Microsoft Research Cambridge. The team thus put together is mainly interested in the application of advanced artificial intelligence techniques to build powerful digital media information recognition systems. Initial results are expected in a few months time, especially in the area of archaeology and the conservation of historical heritage.

(1) The classification of finite groups, also called the "monster theorem", is one of the largest mathematical corpuses, mainly published between 1955 and 1983, the aim of which is to classify all simple finite groups. Altogether, the work comprises tens of thousands of pages in 500 articles by over 100 authors.  Some doubts remain as to whether these articles provide a full and correct demonstration, owing to the length and complexity of the published work and the fact that some of the alleged demonstration remains unpublished.

About Inria


A public science and technology institution under the supervision of the ministries for Research and for Industry. Executives: Michel COSNARD, Chairman and CEO of Inria - Jean-Pierre VERJUS, Deputy Managing Director. Annual budget (2009): €200m, of which 21% is from its own resources. Regional research centres:  Paris - Rocquencourt, Sophia Antipolis -Méditerranée, Grenoble - Rhône-Alpes, Nancy - Grand Est, Rennes - Bretagne Atlantique, Bordeaux -Sud Ouest, Lille - Nord Europe, Saclay - Île-de-France. 2,800 researchers, including more than 1,000 PhD students, working within more than 168 project-teams, the majority of which are shared with other bodies, Grandes Ecoles and universities.  790 ongoing research agreements. 80 associate teams around the world. 96 businesses started since 1984.

Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to both basic and applied research in computer science. It aims to help improve the computer user experience and computing devices, to reduce the costs of building and maintaining software and to invent new computing technology. Its researchers focus on over 55 different areas of research to advance the state of the art in fields such as graphics, voice and human language recognition, programming tools and methods, operating systems, networks and mathematics. Microsoft Research employs more than 800 researchers in its six laboratories located in Redmond (Washington), Cambridge (Massachusetts) and Silicon Valley, all in the United States, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Beijing , China and in Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with universities and public or private research centres, throughout the world, to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science.


Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq symbol MSFT) is the world leader in software for micro-computers. The company develops and markets a wide range of software, accessories and services for business and domestic use. This is to allow everyone to access the power of computing from anywhere and at any time, using the internet-enabled digital tool of their choosing. Established in 1983, Microsoft France employs over 1,500 people. Since 1 February 2006, the CEO has been Eric Boustouller.

Keywords: Microsoft research Joint research centre Valérie Pécresse Steve Ballmer Partnership Press release Michel Cosnard Andrew Ballmer