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Funding and the problem of embedment

The call stated that the grant could be used as freely as university core funding for research, which is provided as block grants. In 2011 and 2012, the grant covered 75100% of the total running costs of three of the four centres. For Food, Fitness and Pharma the grant only covered 25% of expenses in 2011.16

Funding from the UNIK initiative is primarily used for research activities, doctoral and post-doctoral training, and research infrastructure. However, some money is also used to attract international personnel and talent and to collaborate with research institutions, higher education institutions and private firms. A small amount is used for teaching programmes at bachelor’s and master’s levels and for different outreach activities.

The host universities support the CoE mainly by providing at no charge the equipment and infrastructure (laboratories, information technology services, buildings, etc.) needed to conduct its research. They also contribute to the total overhead costs of running the CoE and most contribute to running costs.17 This last contribution is not part of the terms of the grant but is given to help the CoE accomplish the tasks agreed with the funding agency, to enhance its performance, and to give it further potential for development.18

The management of all four centres feels that the grant terms make it possible for the staff to aim at higher standards of excellence and orient their research towards longer timelines. Moreover, the grant gives opportunities to work across disciplines internationally and to work towards dissemination and exploitation of results. The grant also puts management and staff under greater pressure to deliver outcomes such as publications and patents. A special worry is the future funding of the on-going research activities. As one informant states: “This considerable investment will... evaporate unless it is possible to obtain funding that allows these projects to continue.” Apparently, this applies especially at the Technical University of Denmark, which believes firmly in the principle that the continuation of the CoE beyond the grant period is best demonstrated by the ability of the CoE to attract competitive external research funding.19

It was expected that successful parts of the UNIK would be integrated in the university’s activities and regular budget after the grant period. All informants from the CoE are convinced that their centre will continue to exist and get funding from other sources and that co-operation with partners will endure. Moreover, they are convinced that the results and insights produced by the CoE will influence scientific discourse, that innovations generated by their research will be successfully marketed, and that young researchers trained at the CoE will become leading scientists.20

Two of the three universities are developing a strategy for integrating the CoE structure into the host university after funding expires. They are considering how to finance permanent faculty positions or to prolong key staff positions at the level of associate professor and professor.

All of the universities plan to raise funds from third parties and intend to make arrangements with the CoE about transitional funding. However, the centres’ success in attracting competitive external third-party funding is uneven. For instance, one centre has already received approximately DKK 78.5 million in third-party grants and the university expects this positive trend to be sustained and expanded to maintain the most promising activities of the centre.

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