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NOK 2 billion to new Centres of Excellence

The Research Council of Norway has granted 13 research groups status as Norwegian Centres of Excellence (SFF centres) starting in 2013. The new centres will receive a total of more than NOK 2 billion over a ten-year period to produce world-class research.

Minister of Education and Research Kristin Halvorsen congratulates the 13 new Centres of Excellence. Minister of Education and Research Kristin Halvorsen congratulates the 13 new Centres of Excellence. "Researchers who are seeking a role at the cutting edge of their international fields need flexible, long-term funding to give them a chance to take bolder steps," says Minister of Education and Research Kristin Halvorsen, who is pleased that the SFF scheme is being continued and extends hearty congratulations to the 13 new centres."

The new centres are located as follows: four in Oslo, three in Bergen, four in Trondheim, one in Ås and one in Tromsø.

The new centres will receive a total of more than NOK 200 million annually for a maximum of two five-year periods. Funding for the second five-year period will be awarded on the basis of a mid-term evaluation carried out roughly 3 ½ years after start-up.

Few make the grade

The competition for status as a Centre of Excellence is fierce; 139 research groups submitted applications. Of these, 29 were found to be strong enough to make it to the final decision round. Only 13 passed the final test, after a detailed and time-consuming application process.

Whereas ordinary allocations are typically granted for a three-year period, the SFF centres have the chance to receive funding for up to ten years. This gives the institutions the flexibility to reorganise their research groups and form new collaborations.

The main criteria applied when awarding SFF status has been scientific merit – both of the planned research activities and of the centres’ key personnel. In addition, the Research Council has attached importance to factors such as the added value of creating a centre, national and international cooperation, gender balance, ethics, and environmental impact.

High international level

The SFF scheme is one of the Research Council’s primary instruments for promoting research of high scientific quality. Ten years under the SFF initiative - The 13 new centres will deliver research that makes a lasting impact, says Director General Arvid Hallén. - The 13 new centres will deliver research that makes a lasting impact, says Director General Arvid Hallén. have changed the Norwegian research landscape and substantially boosted quality.

“All our experience indicates that these 13 new centres will deliver research that makes a lasting impact for years to come,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council. “They are already well-entrenched research groups; this long-term funding gives them the chance to make their mark in the forefront of international research.” The director general is looking forward to seeing what this next generation of Norwegian Centres of Excellence will achieve.

A broad range of fields

The new SFF centres represent a wide range of subject fields and will address a highly diverse set of research questions. Three of the centres are to be headed by women.

See the list below of Centres of Excellence that will receive SFF allocations starting in 2013.

New centres at the University of Oslo (UiO)

223265 Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan

Multi Increased migration has led to a more multilingual society. This SFF centre will help to generate knowledge about how society can address the challenges of multilingualism as well as capitalise on the potential it implies. 

Annual allocation:
Approx. NOK 14.5 million
Project manager: Professor Elizabeth Lanza

223274 The Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order

Court Since the end of WWII, a number of international courts and tribunals have been established. The centre will analyse and assess the legitimacy of this emerging global judiciary in the international and national domestic order. What are the factors that can ensure the authority of the international courts?

Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 17.5 million
Project manager: Professor Andreas Føllesdal

223272 Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics

Earth evolution The centre’s objective is to develop an Earth model that explains how mantle processes drive plate tectonics and trigger massive volcanism. Throughout Earth’s history, these events have caused changes in the environment and climate.

Annual allocation:
Approx. NOK 15.5 million
Project manager: Professor Trond Helge Torsvik

223273 Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders

Mental disorders Since antiquity, the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and the inheritability of the diseases have been recognised. Yet there are still no reliable biomarkers for these disorders. At the new centre, basic researchers and clinical researchers will employ new deep sequencing technology , recent brain research findings and registry data to generate new knowledge.
Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 17.5 million
Project manager: Professor Ole A. Andreassen

New centres at the University of Bergen

223252 Birkeland Center for Space Science

Birkeland This SFF centre will enhance knowledge about the electrical currents coupling Earth to space, particle precipitation from space, the Northern Lights, terrestrial gamma flashes and other interactions between the Earth and space. This will in turn lay the foundation for improved space weather advisory forecasts and enhanced security for GPS, TV signals, payment systems and other satellite-based services.
Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 16 million
Project manager: Professor Nikolai Østgaard

223269 Centre for Intervention Science in Maternal and Child health

Mother and child Each year, eight million children in low- and middle-income countries die, and many women die in connection with childbirth. The introduction of simple measures would help to prevent many deaths, diseases and childbirth complications. The centre will help to improve maternal and child health by studying the effectiveness of health measures in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 17.5 million
Project manager: Professor Halvor Sommerfelt

223250 Centre for Cancer Biomarkers

Cancer biomarker The centre’s objective is to move beyond the current rudimentary knowledge about interactions between tumour cells and various cell types in the tumour microenvironment. The researchers will build up expertise in validating biomarkers for use in identifying and treating aggressive cancers.

Annual allocation: Approx.NOK 17 million
Project manager: Professor Lars Andreas Akslen

New centres at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

223254 Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems

amos The centre will strengthen Norway’s already high standing in marine technology. Researchers will develop control engineering and marine technology for autonomous systems that can interpret data and take decisions without the need for human intervention.

Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 17.5 million
Project manager: Professor Asgeir Johan Sørensen

223255 Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research

Infallmation The centre will identify new diagnostic tools and therapeutic targets for inflammatory diseases. Research activities will lead to a greater understanding of how the body’s inflammatory responses to disease are triggered and how the immune system is activated.

Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 16.5 million
Project manager: Professor Terje Espevik

223262 Centre for Neural Computation

Neural computation The objective of this SFF centre is to pioneer the extraction of computational algorithms from the mammalian cortex. Understanding the brain at the algorithmic level may have far-reaching implications, from the diagnosis and prevention of many neurological and psychiatric diseases to applications in the IT industry. 

Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 17.5 million
Project manager: Professor May-Britt Moser

223257 Centre for Dynamics of Biological Diversity

Biodiversity The centre’s researchers will study biosystems at the genetic, population and community levels. The objective is to identify general principles and patterns which can be used to predict changes in biological diversity, including the significance of human activities.

Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 10.5 million
Project manager: Professor Bernt-Erik Sæther

New Centre at the University of Tromsø (UiT)

223259 Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate

Arctic gas The centre will study methane release – in subsea methane hydrate reservoirs, the seabed and the Arctic Ocean – to ascertain its future impact on the marine environment and global climate system.

Annual allocation:
Approx. NOK 14 million
Project manager: Professor Jurgen Mienert

New Centre at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB)

223268 Centre for Environmental Radioactivity

Radioactive Long-term basic research on radioactivity will better equip humankind to address threats from both natural and man-made nuclear or radiological sources. The centre’s objective is to provide the scientific basis for impact/risk assessments which underpin management of radiation risks.

Annual allocation: Approx. NOK 15.5 million
Project manager: Professor Brit Salbu

The Norwegian Centres of Excellence (SFF) scheme

logo The SFF scheme is one of the Research Council’s primary instruments for promoting research of high scientific quality. A research group that is granted status as an SFF centre can look forward to ten years of stable funding.

Generous, long-term funding allows the SFF centres to establish an organisation designed to carry out targeted research of top international calibre and develop new ways to collaborate and reach the international forefront of their respective fields. An important secondary objective is to enhance researcher recruitment.

The scheme was launched in 2003 with 13 SFF centres. In 2007 eight new SFF centres were established. The total annual budget for these 21 centres has been NOK 235 million.

The initial SFF centres are all drawing to a close at the end of 2012, while 13 new centres are being established. The total annual budget for the new centres is NOK 208 million.




Written by:
Synnøve Bolstad. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann

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