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 Université, the one university resulting from the merger of the three former universities on 1st January 2012.
The institute opened in September 2008 in the "Astronomers' House," in the Longchamp site where the Observatoire d'Astronomie de Marseille-Provence (Marseille-Provence Astronomy Observatory), now in the Château-Gombert Science Park, was located until April 2008.
Since the completion of the first phase of works, the Institute has had four flats on the site, working offices, a meeting room, a conference room (seating 50) and spaces for social interaction where residents rub elbows (lounge and dining room).
A second building, which will include ten new flats and working rooms, is currently under construction.