„Teaming Excellence takes Europe forward“

January 15, 2014

A new EU programme is now in place to support the development of scientific excellence in Eastern and Southern Europe. Established research institutions in the role of counterpart have a decisive part to play, not least by introducing their own proven standards. To ensure optimum success, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft is pleading for a modification of the work programme.

The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft believes that the “Teaming Excellence” funding strand included for the first time in the new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, offers the opportunity to strengthen the European Research Area still further, as well as adding momentum to the economy. "Europe’s prosperity is in large measure dependent on the powers of the EU member states to innovate. In view of the intensifying international competition for scientific excellence, it is of central importance not just that we maintain our cutting edge, but that this edge is broadened,” emphasises Peter Gruss.

“Teaming Excellence” brings leading research institutions together with partners in less well-developed regions in order to establish and develop local research centers with international visibility. Eligibility is oriented primarily towards those countries that have joined the EU since 2004. The real effects of “Teaming Excellence” are felt as, in addition to the Horizon 2020 funding, further resources become available from the EU Structural Fund to build up the necessary infrastructure, Peter Gruss continued.

The role of scientific coordinator

Following publication of the rules for applications, however, there is a risk that success may be impaired by assigning the role of coordinator solely to the partner in the applicant country. “Whereas the expertise in developing and operating centers of excellence unequivocally lies with the established research institutions, which should therefore also acts as coordinators. This the only way in which our institutes, which have a strong interest in Teaming, will have the influence to ensure that the research work performed is first class.” Given that the two-stage application procedure makes provision for extended deadlines, there is still time enough for an amendment. If no change is made, then interest on the part of the leading research institutions may dwindle, putting the goal of “Teaming Excellence” in jeopardy.

The procedure has already begun with the first call for applications. Specific project outlines with a detailed overview of the long-term research and innovation strategy envisaged for the center must be submitted by 17 September 2014. Provided that the applications are sufficiently convincing, the Teaming partners will receive between 200,000 and 500,000 euros in EU funding to enable them to prepare a sustainable business plan by the end of 2015. This plan must highlight the expected potential that will be unlocked by forming a cluster in the region. A jury of international experts will then by mid-2016 evaluate the business plans on the basis of several criteria. The applicants with the highest evaluation will qualify for Horizon 2020 funding in the amount of around 20 million euros over a period of five to seven years to establish and operate their center of excellence.

The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft has played a major role in promoting the funding line for “Teaming Excellence”. For example, MPG joined together with eight other leading research institutions to produce a white paper for political decision-makers, outlining the principal preconditions for a successful Teaming project. These would include the requirement for the partnership to be sustainably funded, science-driven and capable of delivering a win-win result for those involved. The white paper was signed by the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the following research organisations: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO), Institut Pasteur, League of European Research Universities (LERU), Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.

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