The network was formally established in January 2004 during a meeting in Alicante. This meeting, which brought together 8 of the partners in the current network and 18 Young Investigator groups, was financed by the participants’ own funds, as was an earlier smaller meeting between ENI London and ENI Göttingen in June 2003. Both meetings were considered very successful and stimulating by the participating young investigators and the continuation was enthusiastically endorsed.

During the Alicante meeting a steering committee (now executive committee) was elected, which has to approve each individual group and thereby applies stringent criteria of excellence. This exercise, together with the need of the participating institutions to compete for those young investigators, who are successful in the above-mentioned programs, promote the awareness and strife for excellence in these institutions beyond the particular groups of an ENI.

The network, then comprising 14 partner institutes, applied to the European Union for networking funds in the 3rd Call of the 6th Framework Program (Coordination Action) and was accepted. From 2005-2010, the network activities were funded by the European Commission. Between 2011 and 2015, the network received funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). As of 2016, the network will be financially supported by private and public funding.

The ENI-NET has extensively grown over the years with multiple institutes joining the initial partner institutes. As of 2016, the network consists of 53 Young Investigator groups in 23 ENI institutes located in 15 European countries.