The IMISCOE network was established as a Network of Excellence on April 2004 in the context of the EU 6th Framework program. The acronym stands for International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe. The European Commission initially funded the Network for a period of five years (1 April 2004 – 31 March 2009) with a budget of 4.5 million euro. The funding was seen as an investment that should lead to a sustainable form of European cooperation between researchers within the EU.

When the EU funding expired (in 2010), the infrastructure for research that had been constructed in this domain was perceived as so successful by its participants that it was decided to continue the collaboration in an independent IMISCOE Research Network. In 2014, the coordination of the network was transferred from the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies of Amsterdam University (with Rinus Penninx as coordinator) to Erasmus University Rotterdam (with Maurice Crul and Peter Scholten as coordinators). From 2018-2022 the coordination the coordination was continued by Erasmus University Rotterdam (with Peter Scholten as coordinator).

The Network has worked successfully on its core tasks based funding from the IMISCOE member institutes: it has expanded its participation (to 51 institutes and more than 1000 researchers by 2019), generated a great number of publications based on systematic comparison and incurred many proposals for new, comparative and interdisciplinary research. It has built an infrastructure for the training of future researchers and has taken a great number of initiatives for disseminating the knowledge that is brought together or generated within the Network. The fact that IMISCOE has managed to reinvent itself as a Research Network is a clear signal of its legitimacy and relevance.

The contribution of IMISCOE to the development of migration and integration research in Europe has been threefold. First and foremost, it has provided a platform for excellent scholars throughout Europe (and increasingly also beyond Europe) to get together, initiate comparative research and organize joint research projects. With this academic function IMISCOE has developed itself into the largest European network of scholars in the area of migration and integration research. The annual IMISCOE conferences have developed into key-moments in the agendas of most migration scholars in Europe. Secondly, IMISCOE has contributed to the training of young researchers and the exchange of young and mid-career researchers throughout Europe. Thirdly, IMISCOE has played an important role in the mutual dialogue between researchers and society (policy, politics, civil society). This involves not just the dissemination of research findings, but also the joint shaping of research agendas and increasingly also the joint operation in research proposals.