UArizona-CNRS IRC for Global Grand Challenges

2023 initiatives and beyond

The CNRS-UArizona IRC for Global Grand Challenges is a catalyst for large-scale international collaboration, innovation, and resource exchange, focusing on addressing critical research areas in the context of climate change. From sustainability in arid lands to the mysteries of dark matter and energy, the interconnectedness of biospheres, and equity in the digital revolution, the France-Arizona Institute is leading the charge in tackling global challenges through global collaborations.

The IRC allows researchers to embark on extraordinary endeavors by pooling their resources. Exploring exoplanets, pushing the boundaries of black hole research, and addressing pressing issues like climate change and biodiversity loss are all within our reach due to this monumental collaboration. Currently, the IRC collaborators are focusing on addressing 3 Grand Challenges

  • Habitability Earth and Beyond: What makes a world habitable and how to keep it that way?
  • Integrated Food-Energy-Water Solutions at Scale: Agrivoltaics
  • Climate Change & Health: Facing the Unpredictable

GRAND CHALLENGE 1: Habitability

What makes a world habitable, and how to keep it that way?

As human understanding of our universe continues to evolve, the France-Arizona Institute for Global Grand Challenges (FAI) underscores the grand challenge of habitability: What makes a world habitable and how do we keep it that way? The end goal is not solely the intellectual pursuit of knowledge but also in our future survival, potential space exploration, and the discovery of possible extraterrestrial life forms.

This grand challenge emanates from the 2022 annual strategic meeting between UArizona and CNRS, where Habitability was selected as one of our first focus areas of research. In 2021, in the context of the annual joint Ph.D. program between CNRS and UArizona, which invites a variety of innovative proposals across disciplines, five exemplary proposals received were focused on aspects of Mars's water and Titan's atmosphere, dovetailing perfectly with our broader theme of habitability in the solar system. Thus, the IRC decided to create a research cluster joining these five teams to further our understanding of this critical issue.

The five investigations under this proposal encompass a broad spectrum of studies including Mars's climate and water availability, the existence of protected liquid oceans in Ocean worlds like Europa and Titan, and the atmospheric photochemistry that forms complex hydrocarbons on Titan. These research endeavors, lead by ten Principal Investigators and their respective doctoral students, aim to not only enhance our comprehension of the habitability of our solar system, but also extend to the understanding of primordial Earth and distant exoplanets.

This research will be driven by a strong collaborative effort between ten PIs and their doctoral students. In the spirit of the CNRS-UArizona initiative, this joint research effort is expected to serve a transformative purpose in the grand challenge of habitability. We look forward to the synergetic integration of these teams and believe that this unique training opportunity for doctoral students will lead to unprecedented discoveries in our quest to comprehend habitability within and beyond our solar system.


Martian Ice Distribution and Dynamics

PI-UAShane Byrne

PI-CNRSSusan Conway



Cryovolcanism and Space Weathering on Europa

PI-UA: Christopher Hamilton

PI-CNRS: Alexis Bouquet

Team 4

Atmospheric Structure & Haze Formation On Titan

PI-UA: Tommi Koskinen

PI-CNRS: Panayotis Lavvas


Using Clouds and Climates of the Solar System as a Testbed for Exoplanets

PI-UA: Tyler Robinson

PI-CNRS: Franck Montmessin

GRAND CHALLENGE 2: Agrivoltaics

Integrated Food-Energy-Water Nexus at Scale


With agriculture using the lion's share of freshwater resources and water playing a key role in energy production, the interconnected nature of the food-energy-water nexus becomes clear. As population growth, rapid urbanization, and changing dietary patterns are ratcheting pressure on these already strained resources, the need for bold and innovative approaches is more evident than ever. 


The CNRS-UArizona IRC  for Global Grand Challenges is ready to tackle these complex, interwoven problems by promoting and harmonizing research across various disciplines and reaching beyond international boundaries. The initiative Integrated Food-Energy-Water Nexus at scale (IFEWS) is one of the three Grand Challenges the IRC science committee identified in September 2022. It is a testament to our dedication to creating a world with equitable and secure access to life's essential resources. One potential game-changer that the IRC is currently exploring is the large-scale implementation of Agrivoltaics.

GRAND CHALLENGE 3: Climate Change & Health

Facing the unpredictable

Coming Soon. 





Coming soon.