The predecessor of ERTI was founded in 1897 as the Hungarian Royal Forestry Experimental Station, and since its foundation the institution had several organisational changes. The Hungarian Agricultural research and Innovation Centre (NAIK) has started its operation on 1st January 2014. The Centre, which has its headquarters in Gödöllő, was established with the merger of 13 research institutes active in agriculture or food industry, and further four research institutes joined. The Forest Research Institute (ERTI) operates as the part of NAIK.

The main activity of ERTI is complex research related to the development of silviculture which covers several activities from basic research to practical and day-to-day questions and problems of silviculture. ERTI performs silvicultural activities on an area of 705.8 ha and nurseries of 71.8 ha, and operates 4 arboretums with a total area of 87 ha.

ERTI operates with several experimental stations which perform different activities:

The Sárvár Station started its activity in 1954 and recently became the institutional centre of domestic forest tree breeding. It plays an important role in poplar improvement and in the production and management of propagation material. The activities of the Ecological Laboratory are precipitation, soil and plant testing. The Genetic laboratory performs molecular genetic tests.

Sopron was the centre of forest research before the establishment of the Forest Research Institute in Budapest. Then the Sopron Institute merged into Forest Research Institute and now it operates as an Experimental Station. The Experimental Station hosts mainly economic, partly ecological research.

The Mátrafüred Station was founded in 1960. The present scope of activity covers forest protection research, ecological research (sample plots in spruce, beech, and sessile oak forest, water yield measurement objects, air pollution measurements) and breeding research (IUFRO spruce provenance test).

The Püspökladány Station was founded in 1924, operates a poplar research system and performs research on tree planting on saline areas.

ERTI maintains international relations with more than ten countries and international organisations. ERTI is a member of IUFRO and EFI, and is a registered organisation in international (EU) R+D mark.