Mid-term evaluation of the centres of excellence (2009-13)
The mid-term evaluation reviewed the results of the centres against the goals stated in the applications. It considered the quality of partnerships and R&D teams, the progress and the structure of the implementation of the programmes, organisational aspects of the work, and the centres’ progress.
The findings include progress in attaining international scientific excellence, in linking research and the economy, and in achieving critical mass for research. They also note the establishment of high-quality partnerships and of sustainable organisational and business models in the CoEs, along with the potential for successful long-term development and continuation of the centres even after the termination of financial incentives.
Participation in the OECD/RIHR Research Excellence Initiatives (REIs) study also reveals positive developments in the national research sphere and confirms the findings of the evaluations for individual centres that were carried out by international experts.
The responses to the OECD/RIHR survey to CoEs and their host institutions can be summarised as follows:
1. The CoEs have had a positive impact on research, mainly owing to the interdisciplinary nature of the research, the research teams, and the management of research. Interdisciplinary research enables achievements that cannot be attained by individual scientific disciplines and stimulates international cooperation and networking:
- The REI is seen as a role model in terms of science management and national research practice.
- The REI has made the research landscape more diverse, and has had a strong impact on new kinds of research activities.
- Co-operation between different disciplines is now possible, owing to research funds that could not be acquired by individual efforts or disciplines.
- The CoE status has helped to establish contacts with research-intensive institutions abroad.
- The research aims at internationally competitive standards of excellence and innovation. The research is more oriented towards international co-operation, and the achievements and scientific findings have benefited from the opportunity for international networking.
2. The CoEs have an impact on host institutions, their organisational structures, their visibility and international competitiveness:
- The tasks of the host organisations are positively affected by the CoEs (new excellent staff, additional funds, new lines of research).
- The host institution receives more attention from the media, and links with national research institutions are strengthened. The REI also helps create links between national and international research institutions as well as links between research institutions and private business. The visibility of host institutions has risen because of the CoEs, which have also promoted the structural development of host institutions.
- Even if their excellence status is confirmed by the acquisition of a CoE, the host institutions do not receive additional funding from the core funding bodies. However, they acquire third-party funding more easily.
- In the interest of host institutions, the positions of CoE members are to be prolonged after the REI funding expires.
- The REI has enhanced national research competitiveness.
3. The CoEs have had an impact on capacity building and on the development of human resources in research:
- Early-stage researchers trained in the CoE will go on to be leading scientists. They have the potential to engage in competitive research and meet future research needs. Well-educated managers and research leaders will be needed very soon in industry and in universities. The capacity building in academia, industry and the research sector that has been made possible by the REI is therefore a valuable achievement.
- CoEs promote joint supervision of early-stage researchers with PhD advisors from different disciplines.