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Recruit outstanding personnel

This goal shows that governments are eager to attract human resources from other countries or from non-academic positions. Outstanding scientists are clearly needed to conduct excellent research. REIs seek to achieve this goal by offering favourable conditions, e.g. through long-term grants, generous funding or new pathways of collaboration that may be difficult or even impossible through other programmes. The recruitment of outstanding personnel is a particularly salient feature of the Korean WCU programme; the scheme is based on the idea of having Korean HEIs invite internationally renowned researchers to co-operate with the faculty and to establish new academic programmes.9 REIs such as the Australian ARC Centres of Excellence, the Estonian Development of Centres of Excellence or the Russian NRU schemes also explicitly fund the recruitment of international and outstanding personnel.

Support resource-intensive research and build research capacity

REIs are built around the notion that excellence is not only a matter of individual effort, and that research units must have a certain size, strategy and indeed culture of excellence to perform at high levels and trigger innovation. One of the most frequently used terms in REI descriptions is “critical mass”. The idea is that to achieve certain beneficial effects in terms of quality, a quantitative threshold must first be crossed, whether in terms of the number of researchers assembled in one centre, the infrastructure to which they have access, or both (depending on the goals of the scheme). Accordingly, REIs offer large sums over prolonged periods of time to support large initiatives such as interdisciplinary centres of excellence on bis topics like climate change.

Figure 2.5. Investment and stability, maximum funding period and maximum investment per funded

research unit

Note: It is important to note that funding for REIs is not uniform across countries. For example, some REIs support capital expenditure while others do not. This figure shows the maximum funding per centre and does not distinguish between activities supported. In addition, it can be misleading to consider only direct REI funding when studying the financial situation of REI centres, given that many also attract considerable funds from other sources.

Source: OECD/RIHR questionnaire to government ministries, Q4.1: Please describe how the government funds REIs in your country by completing the following table. All monetary values in USD PPP 2011. For each country the two-digit country code is supplemented with an abbreviation for the specific REI. Data unavailable for: FI-CoE, SE-SRA, US-STC. See Table 2A.2 in Annex 2.A1 for full data.

Figure 2.5 shows how different schemes endeavour to create such research clusters. The vertical axis shows that the maximum period of funding (in a particular round) is on average around seven years, although a number of schemes have a longer duration. The Japanese WPI scheme provides funding for a period of 15 years, nearly double the average. On average USD 5.4 million (PPP) are set as the maximum annual funding of a centre. Higher amounts are provided in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea and the Russian Federation. These countries would appear to be attempting to create large-scale clusters of excellence in research. Austria’s Comet scheme, the Russian Federation’s NRU and Japan’s WPI have exceptionally high funding per centre over an exceptionally long period of time.

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