EMES has existed since 1996, when an international group of scholars formed a research network that had been financed by the European Union. EMES takes its name from the French title of its first research project, “L’EMergence de l’Entreprise Sociale en Europe” (The emergence of social enterprises in Europe) completed between 1996 and 2000. Formally established as a non-profit association (ASBL under Belgian law) in 2002 EMES was originally composed of European university research centers and individual researchers. After many years of collaborative research and projects jointly conducted with researchers from other regions, EMES decided in 2013 to open its membership to researchers from around the world.
Institutional members of EMES include: