In 2009, the Alliance 4 Universities (A4U) (a strategic partnership of four leading Spanish universities:  Carlos III and Autonomous universities from Madrid, and the Autonomous and Pompeu Fabra from Barcelona) committed themselves to the creation of a database of indicators on scientific activity by Spanish universities that would allow the quality standards of these universities/institutions to be evaluated. The outcome was the IUNE Observatory

Previously, members of the research team in charge of developing the project between Carlos III University and Autonomous University both in Madrid identified the need to extend the initial research to a broader field that included the policies and management of science and universities. To comply with the criteria, it was necessary to set up an interuniversity institute (INAECU). The purpose of the Institute was to combine the complementary activities of research groups with the aim of developing research, teaching, knowledge transfer, and reflecting on the role of scientific research and universities within a knowledge society.