Evaluation of the Centers of Excellence Measure
Centres of Excellence have been supported by the budgets of all the previous structural funds periods, from 2004–2006, 2007–2013 and 2014–2020. 12 Centres of Excellence activities were funded in 2007–2013 and 9 in 2014–2020 to support and ensure the sustainability of internationally high-quality research and development activities of Estonian R&D institutions, thereby creating the preconditions for strengthening the cooperation and competitiveness of Estonian research in the European research space. While in 2007-2013, support was given to the collaboration between existing research teams, with an emphasis on the succession of top-level researchers, in 2014–2020, an important new focus was on ensuring the sectoral diversity of the Centres of Excellence.
Despite the long-standing implementation of the Centres of Excellence measure, there are no exhaustive data on the role of the action in the development of Estonian science as a whole, its impact on Centres of Excellence research teams and their sustainability, and the competitiveness of Estonian research. It is also unknown what effect the Centres of Excellence scheme has had on Estonian and European society and the economy, what innovative ideas have been generated by the Centres of Excellence scheme and what ideas have been or are being implemented. This lack of data makes it challenging to plan a new period of the Centres of Excellence measures. To this end, the study evaluates 21 Centres of Excellence.
The study aims to assess the impact and effectiveness of the Centres of Excellence measures and, on this basis, to make recommendations for further activities with Centres of Excellence. The study aims to determine to what extent the Centres of Excellence measures have successfully strengthened the level of research, cooperation and competitiveness in Estonia and what should be done differently in the future. The main objective of the study is to assess:
- the effectiveness of the Centres of Excellence action, i.e. the extent to which the objectives of the action were achieved;
the role of the measure in the development of Estonian science as a whole, in ensuring the diversity of fields of research, and in enhancing the cooperation and
- competitiveness of Estonian research in the European Research Area;
- the impact of the action on the research teams of the Centres of Excellence, their sustainability, the next generation of researchers in the field and the popularisation of R&D;
- the extent to which the action has contributed to science-based solutions to societal challenges in Estonia and Europe;
- to make recommendations to support cooperation between Centres of Excellence, based on the Estonian experience to date as well as the experience of other countries.
The evaluation will rely mainly on existing information and analysis of secondary sources, including project reporting and qualitative data collection – (group) interviews and focus group interviews with the leaders of the Centres of Excellence, research staff and doctoral students, as well as with the developers, implementers and sector experts. An external expert is also involved in the evaluation in an advisory role.