About the EC FW5 “Centres of Excellence” programme

 The specific single programme call within the Accompanying Measures programme of the FW5 of the EC, called as “Support for centres of excellence”, was announced in the late autumn of 1999.  States eligible to participate in this indirect RTD action were Central and East European countries from Cyprus to Estonia, i.e. the countries most of whom are associated with the FW5 by now and who can participate in Activity 1 of the FW. By the way, Estonia was the first CEE country that signed bi-lateral agreement with the EC to participate in FW on equal bases with the member states.  Main objective of the call is to support excellent research centres of the countries concerned, the Centres of Excellence (CE) as the winners of the call, to “better put their capabilities at the service of the economic and social needs of the region, in conformity with the interests of the Union as a whole”.  Networking and twinning arrangements with other European centres have planned to meet the goals mentioned. The quality and volume of scientific/technological output and activities of the research centre were the most important eligibility criteria for the CE.

There were no priority fields or subjects, the open competition without any country quotas was organized. About 190 research centres have taken part in the call. Later the political consideration that every eligible country should have at least one CE was applied. Finally 34 research institutions as CE were selected out and financial support for the networking and twinning activities in accordance with the accepted concrete work packages of the proposal was granted to them. Estonia is lucky to have two CE, one of them is our Institute of Physics (IoP), University of Tartu. IoP signed the corresponding contract with EC for three years (starting from October 1, 2000) in the very first wave of negotiations.

  Estomaterials – the Centre of Excellence project in the Institute of Physics

We named our project as “Regional Centre of Excellence in New Functional Materials, their Design, Diagnostics and Exploitation”. The acronym “Estomaterials” has been utilized for the short proposal name. This is one of the six proposals in the field of material science and physics among 34 winning projects of all subjects. The amount of our project is 0.7 MEUR (about 10.95 MEEK). This networking and twinning activities money can be used for PhD postgraduate students, postdocks, foreign guest lecturers/researchers and for our visits to the research centres abroad, for the organizing of workshops and conferences. Small amount of money can be used for chemicals, materials, software and some PC for long-term visitors. No any salaries for local persons allowed except for some out-of-the-institution technical help in organizing meetings. The overhead calculated only from the sums paid to long-term visitors can be used for a direct support of research or to cover whatever other needs the CE needs.

The goal of the project is to enable the CE more efficiently participate in preparation of Estonia to accession to the EU, by restructuring their S&T sector. The primary objective of the proposed measures is to revivify the high-tech industry in Estonia and in the Tartu region by providing and implementing new materials (in particular, with predicted characteristics) and technologies for informatics, photonics, medicine and environmental services, by co-operation with the European high-technology companies and by training skilful young entrepreneurs. The project is related to the priority of the 5th Framework Programme 1.1.3.-5.2. Advanced functional materials.

The CE project have been planned in accordance with several fixed in the EC bulletins and “recommended” by euro-officials rules. The work itself and corresponding activities will be done by the following ten project work packages:

All work packages are divided into activity-oriented sub-packages, describing the work stages in detail. The rigid structuring of the CE proposal formulas foresaw the formal part three years ahead, with very high precision and full of restrictions. However, a small flexibility still exists in adjusting of the yearly and six-months “planning sheets” to the needs of reality.