IRCELYON was issued from the merging of Institut de Recherches sur la Catalyse (IRC) and Laboratoire d’Applications de la Chimie à l’Environnement (LACE).

The colloquium "Adsorption and Heterogeneous Kinetics" organised in Lyon in 1949 was attended by the most prominent specialists in catalysis including Emmett, Taylor and Rideal, among many others. The great international success of this meeting convinced CNRS authorities to support Marcel Prettre's project to establish the Institut de Recherches sur la Catalyse (IRC). The CNRS executive order dated December 16, 1958 launched the first laboratory fully dedicated to catalysis. IRC was fully operational in 1960.

From the beginning the laboratory received heavy research equipments and was able to host a large number of researchers. The creation of CNRS positions for engineers and technicians quickly made the various research equipments operational.

History of IRC

The research was initially oriented towards the study of catalytic solids and the improvement of physical characterization techniques. IRC received high international recognition in this area. Catalytic reactions were more used as another characterization tool for catalysts rather than to achieve product synthesis.

This orientation was maintained after Boris Imelik succeeded to Marcel Prettre as Director of IRC in 1972. The initial structure of IRC divided in three departments evolved into a matrical organization involving research groups, each covering a particular catalyst type, and technical services.

The 1980’s mark the end of a golden age where all research funds and personnel appointments where coming from the CNRS administration and the beginning of active contractual collaborations with French chemical and oil companies. This major evolution, preserving basic research on catalytic materials, took place as Raymond Maurel became the Director of IRC in 1984. He developed contractual relations with industry and prompted the creation of joint laboratories located in industrial research centers associating CNRS researchers coming mainly from IRC. The activity of research groups at IRC shifted to the design of active and selective catalysts to obtain targeted products. A group of theoretical chemistry working in strong interaction with experimentalists was created to achieve the modeling of catalytic sites. IRC research was then more devoted to catalytic reactions, but the approach of catalysis via catalytic materials was preserved.

This scientific policy was continued after Raymond Maurel retired in 1988 by the successive directors of IRC: Danielle Olivier (1989-1992), Igor Tkatchenko (1993-1997), Bernard Bigot (1998-2001) and. Thierry Descourières (2002-2005).

The dynamical evolution allowed IRC to cope with the leave of researchers to newly created laboratories, and to adapt to subsequent changes such as the decrease of technicians and engineers, the development of European programmes, and the multiplication of calls for projects at regional, national and international levels.

In a continuous evolution scheme IRC adapted well to the plurality of partnership and ajusted its competences to address the main challenges of catalysis in the present century, namely: C-H bond activation, biomass and waste conversion, clean fuel production, green chemistry for specialties and fine chemical production, and pollutant abatement in air and water. Transversal methodologies such reactor/reaction engineering and the trilogy preparation/characterization/test of catalytic materials were continuously developed.

Half a century after its creation IRC is very active in catalysis research; it is sometimes envied or criticized but still producing good science. IRC as CNRS-managed research institute had a special history and statute, but should now evolve to get closer to other academic institutions at a time where the organisation of French research is bound to restructure and refresh its statute to stay competitive and to keep its due rank in European research.

The establishment of IRCELYON is another step in the evolution of IRC

History of LACE

LACE was established in 1995 to host the research group of Michel Primet who left IRC to conduct research on inorganic synthesis, catalytic combustion, three-ways car exhaust catalysts, DeNOx catalysis and photochemistry. As CNRS closed the chemistry laboratory of Ecole Centrale de Lyon, Jean-Marie Herrmann, who left IRC in 1984, was asked to move to LACE with his research group on photocatalysis. This move broadened the activity of LACE in the field of environmental research and, at the same time, resulted in bringing together photocatalysis and photochemistry in the same laboratory. Appointed Director of LACE on January 1st, 2003, Jean-Marie Herrmann was asked to refocus the research of LACE according to the recommendations of the evaluation Committee of the laboratory. Three research themes were progressively implemented: redox catalysis for environment, photocatalysis/photochemistry, and fonctionnalised materials. The latter subject was strengthened by the arrival of researchers in supromolecular chemistry from UCBL.

Today LACE encompasses all the research activity of UCBL in environmental chemistry and conducts research activities requiring competences in heterogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis, photochemistry and inorganic synthesis.