Institutes for Advanced Study exist in most major research countries. The first one was created at Princeton in 1933, principally to accommodate Jewish researchers and intellectuals who had been forced to leave Germany. Other IAS were set up thereafter, first in the US (at Standford and Duke), and then worldwide, notably in Berlin, Uppsala, Budapest and Bologna.
In France, four projects for creating IAS were developed in parallel as of 2006, in Paris, Lyon, Nantes and Marseille.
The plan to create an IEA in the Aix-Marseille region began to take shape in 2007 when the project was included in the Government-Region Contract and IMéRA’s installation on the Longchamp plateau was confirmed by the Marseille Municipal Council.
The intellectual planning of the institute was carried out by a collective group of researchers from all fields, who met each week over a period of months, along with the project initiator, Robert Ilbert, to define IMéRA’s scientific orientation.
IMéRA is a member of RFIEA (French advanced study institutes network) together with the Paris, Nantes and Lyon IEAs (Institutes if Advanced Studies). IMéRA was founded in 2007 as a not-for-profit organisation by the then three Aix-Marseille Universities (Université de Provence, Université de la Méditerranée and Université Paul Cézanne) and the CNRS (French National Research Agency).
On 1st January 2013 the Institute became a foundation of Aix-Marseille University, the one university resulting from the merger of the three former universities on 1st January 2012.
The Institute began its activities on the former site of the Marseille-Provence Astronomy Observatory in September 2008. Two works phases were carried out, to renovate first the historical seat of the Observatory built under the Second Empire, called the Astronomers’ House (2010-2011), then a modern building of the 60s where astronomers and astrophysicists used to work (2014-2015). Works were funded by the French Government, Provence-Alps-Riviera (PACA) Regional Council, CNRS and the City of Marseille. The University of Aix-Marseille provided the equipment for the premises.
IMéRA now includes 14 flats, 2 seminar rooms (seating 50 and 30), offices and meeting rooms as well as communal interaction spaces. Located in a landscaped park in the heart of Marseille, it provides the best conditions for the reception of residents and construction of an interdisciplinary intellectual community. In 2015 it reached a cruising stage of 140 month-visiting researchers per year.