The purpose of the 4-SPACE (4-Stroke Powered gasoline Auto-ignition Controlled combustion Engine) industrial research project is to research and develop an innovative controlled auto-ignition combustion process for lean burn automotive gasoline 4-stroke engines application. The engine concepts to be developed could have the potential to replace the existing stoichiometric / 3-way catalyst automotive spark ignition 4-stroke engines by offering the potential to meet the most stringent EURO 4 emissions limits in the year 2005 without requiring DeNOx catalyst technology. A reduction of fuel consumption and therefore of corresponding CO2 emissions of 15 to 20% in average urban conditions of use, is expected for the « 4-SPACE » lean burn 4-stroke engine with additional reduction of CO emissions.This paper describes the first set of results of different experimental and numerical studies aiming to get such new combustion process in 4-stroke engines within the framework of this European consortium.One of the target of this consortium driven by IFP, is to develop a 4-stroke gasoline engine running conventionally at high load (with a normal compression ratio and without any intake air heating) and able to achieve Controlled Auto-Ignition (CAI) process at part load by reproducing the 2-stroke internal conditions (internal EGR rate and fluid dynamic control, temperature level…) favorable to this particular combustion process. For this purpose and as a starting point of the work program, a production 2-stroke engine known for its part load auto-ignition behavior is fully studied. Such work is focused on the analysis of in-cylinder conditions prior to auto-ignition using combined experimental testing, 3D CFD computations and optical diagnostics.From this analysis, 1D CFD computations have been extensively performed to evaluate the possible 4-stroke concepts able to reproduce internal conditions favorable to CAI. Then, the most “promising” configurations have been experimentally investigated. Encouraging preliminary results have already shown that NOx emissions are reduced by 10 to 40 times and the fuel economy is improved by 8 to 10% when compared with stoichiometric reference conditions.Other ways of getting auto-ignition of the lean fresh mixture are also explored by the project partners. The effects of several parameters, such as the fuel composition, the engine compression ratio, the intake air temperature level, etc… are also included in the research program. Thus, to analyze better analyze intrinsic auto-ignition process, specific tools as for example Rapid Compression Machine have been developed. Different fuels at various initial conditions (e.g. temperature, excess air) have been tested and compared, for example in terms for example of combustion rate and auto-ignition delay. Results obtained contribute to the better understanding of the auto-ignition process.Preliminary visualization results from specially designed single cylinder engines (2-stroke and 4-stroke) have been obtained for controlled auto-ignition combustion. The effect of charge stratification is briefly discussed.