SOLCYP is a research and development project conducted in France to: (i) understand the physical phenomena conditioning the response of piles to vertical and horizontal cyclic loads; (ii) develop advanced design methods; and (iii) initiate pre-normative development of methodologies that may later be included in national and international codes or professional standards. The potential applications include conventional structures, such as electricity pylons or chimneys, high rise towers and high speed train bridges. However, a central emphasis is also given to more novel foundations for offshore and onshore renewable energy engineering. The paper describes the objectives and overall technical content of the project. Several companion papers focus on more specific aspects and the results obtained so far.