Summary of the results
This chapter describes the basic characteristics of 75 host institutions in ten OECD countries that hosted at least one centre of excellence funded through REIs. The exploratory analysis carried out on the basis of this sample shows that HIs have research budgets of approximately USD 222 million in PPP on average, and host almost three different CoEs at the same time. The total number of CoE-affiliated researchers at the HI is around 157 (FTE) and individual CoEs employ on average 42.5 researchers.
The HIs’ main means of supporting and financing CoEs’ research is to provide equipment and infrastructure free of charge and to cover CoE running costs. In some cases HIs also provide start-up funding and contribute directly to the CoEs’ total overhead costs.
In some cases, the REI obliges the HIs to finance the hosted CoEs. Interestingly, almost 50% of HIs provide additional funds to the CoEs on a voluntary basis in order to enhance the performance of the hosted CoEs. The data show that HIs do not view the activity of the CoEs funded through an REI as a one-off experience but as a fundamental part of the HI’s overall research strategy.
Some 61% of the HIs stated that they planned to develop strategies to integrate the CoE structure more formally into the HI once the REI funding expires. This is one of the most important exit strategies used by HIs to ensure that CoEs continue their research activity. Similarly, almost 50% plan to develop arrangements to renew CoE researchers whose contract depends on the REI funds once these expire. HIs with a larger number of CoEs, however, are less likely to integrate all CoEs into their existing structures given the administrative and financial burdens that this would imply.
The importance of the research carried out by the CoEs at the HIs is also revealed in the indirect ways HIs support CoEs’ researchers and their activities. In 53% of HIs, CoE researchers can be relieved from administrative duties and in almost 41% from teaching obligations, so that they are able to allocate more time to CoE research. This is more frequent in the case of CoE researchers employed within the structures of HIs hosting three or more CoEs.
The substantial support provided by HIs to CoEs also has some clear strategic financial objectives. Hosting a CoE is perceived as a way to raise additional funds in the future. Some 71% of HIs believe that hosting a CoE will make obtaining additional REI funds easier in the future. Almost 94% perceive the support provided to CoEs as conducive to easier procurement of third-party funds owing to the higher research status conferred by the CoEs’ research activity.
HIs differ substantially in terms of the share of total research budget allocated to the research of their hosted CoEs. On average, they allocate up to 9% of their total research budget to activities carried out by CoEs. However, some HIs allocate more than this (up to 68%). HIs that allocate larger shares of their budget to CoEs’ research activities see their support as a means of obtaining additional REI and third-party funding, while others, for which the CoEs’ activities represent a smaller fraction of their total research activities, rely more on traditional funding.
Overall, HIs show very strong appreciation of the REI funding schemes and of the research activity of the hosted CoEs. For almost 89%, the REI is perceived as having a strong impact on the development of new kinds of research activities that, in most cases, would otherwise have been difficult to finance. Moreover, 69% of the HIs declared that the positive effects of the research carried out by CoEs were not confined to the departments that received the funds but spilled over to departments not directly involved in the research. Other positive effects include more attention from the media and more possibilities to attract top-level researchers and better qualified students for their research programmes.