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Photo: Torleif Kvinnesland/NTNU

The award of a Centre of Excellence (CoE) is one of the greatest achievements possible for a Norwegian research environment, and it provides secure funding for free and pioneering research for ten years. Congratulations to Professor May-Britt Moser and the research community at Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience with the award of a new CoE!

By: Tor Grande, Pro-Rector for Research and Dissemination

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Foto: Thor Nielsen/NTNU

Centres of Excellence are perhaps the most successful tool for strengthening the quality of Norwegian research and they have been a key factor in the development of Norwegian research. Basic research driven by curiosity is vital to success in the green shift and the transformation of Norwegian society. It is also critically important for the knowledge sector in general.

A strategic goal for NTNU is to develop several academic communities that rank among the best in the world, and Centres of Excellence are an important tool for achieving this goal.

Ten Centres of Excellence at NTNU have delivered outstanding research for ten years

Since the Centre of Excellence scheme was launched in 2003 (CoE I), we have hosted ten such centres. We were granted four centres in the first round of awards and were naturally very disappointed when we did not gain any new centres in the second-generation awards in 2007.

The joy was all the greater when a total of four new CoEs were awarded to NTNU in 2013. These four centres have now had funding for more than ten years. This has provided effective operating conditions for conducting research at a high international level. In 2014, we achieved clear proof of this with the award of a Nobel Prize to one of these centres.

In the ten years they have existed, the centres have published at a high level, strengthened their networks of expertise, recruited talented researchers to NTNU, and attracted other external funding in intense competition with others.

In the fourth round of awards (2017-2027), NTNU was awarded two CoEs. The PoreLab CoE  – the Porous Media Laboratory, as well as the QuSpin CoE  – the Centre for Low Dissipation Quantum Spintronics – will continue to deliver outstanding research in the time ahead.

Research activity at a high international level

Congratulations on the award to Professor May-Britt Moser and CAC – the Centre for Algorithms in the Cortex!  Over many years, the research environment at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience has delivered outstanding research and important scientific publications.

The CoE award will provide a valuable framework for strengthening and expanding the centre’s research activity at a high international level. We look forward to following your progress towards new goals in your research.

Concerned about cuts in research funding

However, we find it worrying to note that NTNU will now have fewer CoEs after this round of awards. This is happening at a time of tightened budgets and fewer opportunities to raise funding for basic research through other programmes nationally.

The national cuts in the allocation of research funding that we have witnessed this year, including a 20 per cent cut in CoE funding, will have severe knock-on effects for NTNU as a research-intensive university.

In the years to come, we will become more dependent on competing well within Horizon Europe, particularly within the ERC programme, if we are to achieve our high research ambitions. In the award of ERC funds in recent years, NTNU researchers have done very well, and we are extremely proud of them.

Looking ahead to the next CoE call for proposals in about five years’ time, it is important to start work at this early stage on preparing our leading research communities to position themselves. We must prepare the ground for identifying strong candidates for the next round of calls for proposals. Those who aim to win through next time must start the work right now.

A Centre of Excellence boosts research quality and has ripple effects far beyond the core of the centre. Our current Kavli and Amos CoEs are two outstanding examples of this.