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Another example of excellence funding

As discussed in Chapter 1, REIs are not the only way in which research excellence is promoted by national science funders. However, this report is about a specific measure to promote research excellence, not about funding of excellence in general. Therefore, the REIs included in this report had to fit certain criteria (see Chapters 1 and 2). This meant that some schemes were not categorised as part of an REI (Chapter 2 provides a full list in Table 2A.1.1). For example, the Austrian Christian Doppler Laboratories were excluded as there are no fixed time frames for the application procedure. Nevertheless, they offer interesting comparative information for policy makers (Box 3.3).

Box 3.3. Austria’s Christian Doppler Laboratories

Out of the 304 respondents to the OECD/RIHR survey to centres of excellence, 21 Austrian Christian Doppler Laboratories (CDLs) provided information. These centres were not included in the set of CoEs since the funding scheme under which these centres operate could not be categorised as an REI given that applicants are not required to participate in selection processes with fixed time frames and thus compete with other research centres for funding. The information collected from the survey, however, is interesting and highlights the differences between these centres and CoEs.

CDLs support knowledge transfer and co-operation between science and industry and are characterised by small groups of researchers (5 -15), co-operation with one to six industry partners, a duration of seven years and public private partnership funding of EUR 110 000 to 700 000 (USD PPP 136 935 to 871 407) per annum (50% public and 50% industry). Every CDL is embedded within a host research institution such as a university or public research institution. Applications for a CDL may come from any thematic field, based on the demand of high quality research from industry and rigorous scientific quality monitoring via the CDG scientific board and peer reviews.

  • • CDL are generally small in size when compared to the average CoE. A CDL’s average annual funding is around USD 443 000 (PPP), which is also slightly less than the funding received by CoEsSB. CDL are also smaller in terms of the size of the research team, with an average of around 8.6 researchers (headcount) employed (up to a maximum of 15) whereas the average CoE employs around 84 researchers.
  • • The employment of foreign researchers in FTE is also considerably lower in CDLs (1.4) than in the sample of CoEs (12.1).
  • • CDLs state that they enjoy substantial freedom to manage their research budget. Only around 5% of CDLs (18% in the whole CoE sample) report that the management of research funds is determined by the funding agency.
  • • CDLs report less support from the host institution with regard to the possibility of acquiring additional funds for realising the projects planned by the CDL (9% in CDLs and 54% in CoEs) or relief from administrative tasks for members of CDLs (14% in CDLs and 39% in CoEs).
  • • The establishment of a CDL within a host institution resulted in fewer cases of tension (4%) than in CoEs (15%). However, the proportion of CDLs’ scientific staff whose contract is expected to terminate at the end of the funding period is considerably higher than for the CoEs sample (73% and 37%, respectively).
  • • The number of co-operation ties established by CDLs with higher education and public research institutions (4.7) as well as with partners with the private sector (5.7) is lower than for the average CoE (10.9 and 16, respectively).
  • • The research carried out by CDLs also differs from that of CoEs in terms of its broad objectives. Around 9% of CDLs say that their research is less oriented towards political or societal demands (42% of the CoEs’ sample) while 66% focus on dissemination and exploitation of the results, which is in line with the results from the whole CoE sample (61%).

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey of Centres of Excellence, December 2012.

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