IUEM plays an important role in French and European marine science. Benefiting from a unique environment where more than half of the national potential in this field is found, its teams work on all the important issues in research and cover all the oceans of the world. All disciplines that study the marine environment and the activities that take place there, are represented at IUEM: physics, chemistry, biology, genetics, ecology, biochemistry, geophysics, geology, geography, law, economics, et cetera.

Research at IUEM is carried out in the six Joint Research Units (UMRs), an associated laboratory and three International Joint Laboratories (LMIs), through projects and programmes that are mainly funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) and European Union.