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Impact and lasting effects of UNIK

For the informants, the UNIK research excellence initiative is important because the grant allows them to pursue long-term goals in a cross-disciplinary research framework. Furthermore, they agree that the REI has financed new kinds of research activities that would otherwise be hard to finance through project funding or institutional funding.

Cross-disciplinary research is risky and it takes time to establish infrastructure and collaboration across institutions and disciplines. The CoEs have initiated successful new research and generated a number of peer-reviewed publications and pipeline papers, many of which are in highly ranked journals. Furthermore, in several cases the CoEs have initiated successful international collaboration and have provided important core facilities at the university. For some, the grant has made it possible to dedicate resources to shaping calls in the EU Seventh Framework Programme and the future content of Horizon2020.21 On this basis they find that the CoEs fulfil a role model function in terms of science management and/or research practice in a national context. The informants emphasise that the visibility of the host university has risen both in the fields of research in which the CoE is active and in general. This makes it easier to obtain third-party funding for research projects and to attract top-level researchers or the best qualified students to the host university.

In addition, the host institution’s overall structural development and its research identity have been promoted and strengthened by the foundation of the CoE. None of the centres finds that its existence has caused tensions at the host institution.22 All informants agree that the usual tasks of the departments that contribute to the CoE are positively affected by the additional funds, the new and excellent staff, and the new lines of research opened up by the CoE. In the opinion of most informants the departments that do not contribute to the CoE are also positively affected by the co-operation originating from the work of the CoE, the increased reputation of the host institution, and a new sense of competition for excellence within the university.23

Finally, the informants find that their results give their institutions some goodwill that improves their negotiating position with funding bodies such as the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education and other research funding bodies. The results of the CoE will also increase the host university’s block grant from national performance- based funding as a result of its improved research performance.24

The UNIK initiative has thus had a long-lasting impact not only on the development of new kinds of research activities in the CoEs, but also on the host university.25

Overall, both centre and host informants find that UNIK has enhanced national research competitiveness and has helped to internationalise Danish research by creating collaboration between national and international research institutions. However, the informants do not find that the centres have triggered a restructuring of the national research landscape or that the initiative has favoured the creation of more and stronger links between existing national research institutions, but this was not the intention of the initiative.

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