Evaluation of the Centers of Excellence Measure

The budgets of all previous structural funds periods, from 2004–2006, 2007–2013, and 2014–2020, supported Centres of Excellence. Funding supported 12 Centres of Excellence activities in 2007–2013, with 9 funded in 2014–2020. These initiatives aimed to sustain internationally high-quality research and development efforts of Estonian R&D institutions. They also fostered cooperation and enhanced competitiveness within the European research landscape. Support in 2007-2013 focused on fostering collaboration between existing research teams, emphasizing the succession of top-level researchers. In 2014–2020, a key focus shifted towards ensuring the sectoral diversity of the Centres of Excellence.

Despite long-standing implementation, exhaustive data on the Centres of Excellence’s role in Estonian science development are lacking. Additionally, its impact on research teams’ sustainability and Estonian research competitiveness remains unclear. The effect of the Centres of Excellence scheme on Estonian and European society and the economy is also unknown, along with the innovative ideas it has generated and 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.

Impact of Centres of Excellence on Estonian and European society and economy remains unknown. Additionally, it’s unclear which innovative ideas the Centres of Excellence scheme has generated and implemented. Study aims to assess Centres of Excellence impact on research, cooperation, and competitiveness in Estonia. Additionally, it aims to identify potential areas for improvement and recommend future changes. The main objective of the study is to assess:

  1. 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
  2. competitiveness of Estonian research in the European Research Area;
  3. 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;
  4. the extent to which the action has contributed to science-based solutions to societal challenges in Estonia and Europe;
  5. 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 primarily use existing information and analyze secondary sources such as project reports. It will also involve qualitative data collection through group interviews and focus group interviews with various stakeholders. Stakeholders involve leaders, research staff, doctoral students, developers, implementers, and sector experts in Centres of Excellence evaluation. An external expert is advising in the evaluation process.