Norwegian Centres of Excellence

Siri Brorstad Borlaug and Liv Langfeldt Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) Conducted on behalf of the Research Council of Norway

This chapter presents the Norwegian Centre of Excellence (CoE) scheme and its impact on research activities and organisational structures. The scheme is found to increase the visibility, reputation and internationalisation of Norwegian research, but the temporary nature of the CoEs presents challenges for the organisational structures of universities and their faculties. These challenges relate particularly to the allocation of financial resources, the boundaries and autonomy of the centres, the wind-up of centres and responsibility for personnel.


The Norwegian Centres of Excellence (CoEs) scheme is one of Norway’s three research excellence initiatives (REIs). Its primary aims are high scientific quality and internationalisation. The other two schemes are the Centres for Research-based Innovation and the Centres for Environment-Friendly Energy, which also aim at innovation and include a requirement of formal collaboration with industry and/or public agencies.

There are presently 21 CoEs located at various host institutions (universities, university hospitals, research institutes). They are very diverse and the scheme’s impact on research and organisation depends on the disciplines involved and the characteristics of the host institution. The following gives a general description of the scheme and illustrates it with information based on a particular CoE and its host university, and hence describes the perceptions and experiences of one host university, host department and centre. These are illustrative examples; other CoEs and hosts may have different experiences and perceptions. The presentation is based on the survey data collected for the OECD-RIHR study, previous evaluations and studies of the scheme (Langfeldt et al., 2010; Aksnes et al., 2012; Borlaug, forthcoming), and interviews at the selected CoE, its host university and host department.

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