The CIFRE thesis

CIFRE stands for "Convention Industrielle de Formation par la Recherche", (Industrial Agreement for Training through Research). The particularity of this thesis is that it is carried out in partnership between a company and IMT Atlantique. This programme was set up to encourage collaboration between the academic world and the private sector and enable doctoral students to complete their thesis while working on research projects within the company.

Would you like to explore a scientific topic? Do you have an R&D project or a technological challenge to overcome? The CIFRE thesis could be the answer. Here are a few key points to help you understand it better:

  • The work carried out under this agreement leads to the defence of a thesis, hence the use of the term CIFRE thesis.
  • The CIFRE thesis is based on a partnership between your company and IMT Atlantique. You propose a thesis topic in line with your research and development needs.
  • A CIFRE thesis lasts three years, as does a standard doctoral thesis.
  • You recruit a Master's-level graduate to whom you entrust a research assignment. The work, supervised by the academic research laboratory, will form the subject of the PhD thesis.
  • You finance this recruitment with the help of a grant from the ANRT (Association Nationale de la Recherche et de la Technologie) of €14,000 per year for three years.  You pay your employee at least €24,529.44 (gross per annum). This remuneration is eligible for the Research Tax Credit (CIR) under the same criteria as for any researcher working in a company.
  • The main aim of a CIFRE thesis is to carry out advanced research that meets the needs of the company while contributing to the development of new knowledge in the field. The results of the thesis are often relevant to the company and can be directly applied in an industrial context.
  • The CIFRE thesis gives you the security of time devoted to R&D: precise duration and well-defined funding.
  • The CIFRE thesis involves 3 contracts:
    • Between your company and the PhD student: an employment contract, either a 36-month fixed-term contract or a permanent contract. 
    • Between your company and the laboratory: a collaboration contract that covers, in particular, the sharing of intellectual property and the use of research results
    • Between the laboratory and the doctoral student: a thesis contract

To find out more, discover the fields of application covered by the research carried out at IMT Atlantique.

Who can benefit from a CIFRE thesis?

For your company to benefit from a CIFRE agreement, it must meet certain criteria.

  • It must be a private company, whatever its size or sector of activity.
  • Be based in France, whether it is a head office, a subsidiary or an establishment.
  • Formulate a thesis topic in line with your research and development needs. The subject must, of course, be of scientific and technological interest and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field, but it must also fit in with the logic of your business.

What are the steps involved in setting up a CIFRE agreement?

  1. Identify your thesis topic: it must be consistent with your company's research activities. This stage can be refined with one of our relevant research laboratories.
  2. Prepare and publish a job offer. You can use our job board. You can also create an account on the ANRT website to publish your vacancy and consult the profiles of students looking for a CIFRE thesis. Above all, get in touch with the president of the selected laboratory, who can help you to:
  3. Recruit your doctoral student, making sure that you meet the following criteria: they must hold a Master's degree, regardless of nationality or age. The student must be enrolled in the doctoral program to which the laboratory belongs. 
  4. Submit a grant application to the ANRT. This is done throughout the year. The application process takes three months. Please note that the employee-doctoral researcher may not be employed (or have been employed) by your company, its subsidiaries or branches for a cumulative period of more than nine months as of the date on which the ANRT receives the CIFRE application, nor may the student have been enrolled in a thesis for more than nine months as of the date on which the ANRT received the CIFRE application.
  5. Sign the contracts: the CIFRE agreement with the ANRT and, no later than six months after the start of the CIFRE, the collaboration contract with the laboratory.

The CIFRE scheme offers many advantages to companies, and is particularly popular with SMEs. According to the latest ANRT survey conducted in 2021 :

  • 95% of company supervisors are prepared to repeat the CIFRE experience
  • 91% have obtained results in line with their expectations
  • The CIFRE enabled them to create/improve a product (41%), develop a new area of expertise (34%), develop a prototype and/or create or improve a service (29%).

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the CIFRE thesis or if you would like support in making contact with IMT Atlantique's research teams and laboratories. Contact