The Commonwealth itself is nothing but a war-ravaged quagmire of violence and despair. Inside the sealed environment of the Institute, however... But... the Institute's affairs are none of your concern. Your undeveloped mind couldn't even begin to comprehend what we've accomplished.”— Dr. Zimmer
The Institute is a mysterious organization within the Commonwealth. It is known to possess advanced technology, including the ability to produce androids (also known as synths) of high enough quality to pass as humans.
The Institute existed long before the Great War as the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, or CIT, a renowned university based in Boston, Massachusetts. Robert House attended it in his youth. During the Great War, a number of CIT personnel survived by taking refuge in a sealed underground facility beneath the campus. As the decades passed, the survivors, who took to calling themselves simply "the Institute", continued their research, innovating on the pre-War technology they had protected.
In its early days, as the very first Generation 1 synths were being built, the Institute reached out to aid the people of the Commonwealth in rebuilding civilization, but mutual mistrust quickly doomed that enterprise. Soured on any further cooperation with the surface, the Institute withdrew into the shadows, earning a reputation as a technologically advanced yet highly secretive organization. The members of the Institute adopted a new goal: to annihilate every last trace of the pre-War culture they blamed for ending the world, and recreate the surface in their own image and their ideas of a utopian society.
By 2287, the Institute was actively opposed by the anti-slavery Railroad, as well as the Brotherhood of Steel, who viewed the Institute as a direct threat and the synths as technological abominations.
The Institute is divided into four departments, each of which focuses on a different scientific field, such as Robotics and Biomechanics. All departments answer to the Directorate, a group of five individuals, the four department heads plus the Director, who lead the Institute. The Director is the nominal leader of the organization, whose main purpose is to ensure proper cooperation between the departments so that the goals of the Institute are properly met.
The Synth Retention Bureau is responsible for tracking down and retrieving synths who attempt to escape. The Bureau employs completely obedient Generation 3 synths known as Coursers for this task.
The life inside the Institute is the one expected inside a scientific structure with such high technological capability: almost everyone inside is dedicated to various science related jobs, like medics, biologists and engineers, while the 'hard' work like cleaning and running the cafeteria are performed by the synths.
While the Institute is primarily a scientific group, it has a powerful army at its disposal: the Synths.
Inside the main HQ of the Institute, the Robotics Department can produce very large numbers of synthetic organisms, which can be very efficient foot soldiers with enhanced strength and resilience. This, coupled with the advanced technology at their disposal, makes the Institute's Synths a serious threat to anyone who dares to oppose them.
Coursers are a particular type of Synth with higher military capability, used as special agents to pursue and recover lost Synths.
The Institute is home to the most advanced social structure and technology in the post-War wasteland, surpassing even the Brotherhood of Steel.
The main and most important technology of the Institute are the Synths. While the first and second generations of Synths are only very advanced machines, the third generation is completely indistinguishable from humans, making them perfect agents and soldiers.
Also, the Institute has many powerful energy weapons at its disposal, advanced AI, and other robotic technologies. Another powerful technology of the Institute is Teleportation, which scientists use to enter and exit the Institute, and can be used to relocate large numbers of troops and agent to almost any location instantly.
The Institute is mentioned in Fallout 3 in the quest The Replicated Man, and in Fallout: New Vegas in Mr. House's obituary. In Fallout 4 the Institute makes a full appearance as one of the major factions in the game.
Behind the scenes
The Institute's logo is based on Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man drawings and strongly resembles a Synth during production.