Catalan research institutions’ excellence is internationally recognised

Catalonia is fast becoming an international reference point in research projects thanks mainly to a large number of articles being produced and exchange initiatives with other countries being set up. Catalan research centres, especially medical and technical institutions, have accomplished an important level of international recognition after a relatively short period of time.

CNA / Sara Gómez

December 13, 2011 09:32 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalonia ranks as the main area of Spain when referring to the international impact of its research projects. Between 2003 and 2009, Catalan scientific production experienced an increase of 78% and now represents 26.6% of the Spanish total. This means that almost one out of every three projects in the country is carried out in a Catalan institution. If translated to international standards, Catalonia has a research impact comparable to that of Canada, Singapore or Finland. This is confirmed by both its position in the global rankings and the number of science and academic prizes awarded to institutions in the Catalonia.

The University of Barcelona (UB) is first for research excellence in Spain

High technology and biomedical research are the two main pillars of Catalonia’s investigative excellence. According to the SCImago Institutions Ranking (SIR) of 2011, a report that bases its results on the academic and research production of 3,042 universities and research centres around the world, the Universtity of Barcelona (UB) ranks first in research excellence in Spain. The UB holds the 625th world position and obtains an index of 21.42 in the excellence rating, a figure that represents the percentage of an institution’s publications included in 10% of the most quoted articles in its discipline around the world.

Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), also located in Barcelona, is the next highest ranked Catalan university, coming in 643rd with an index of 21.20. The University of Lleida (UdL), in Western Catalonia, at 778th position, and the Rovira i Virgili University, at 922nd and located in the southern Catalan province of Tarragona, follow in the classification.

Catalan medical and technical research centres with a great worldwide scientific impact

Among the 142 Spanish organisations investigated by the SIR World Report 2011 from 2005 to 2009, Catalan institutions related to the medical and technical fields stand out for the high scientific impact of their articles when compared to the world average.

The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) leads the list of most cited Catalan institutions with a 3.2 normalised impact rate, which means the organisation is quoted more than three times the average of the world’s 3,000 most-cited institutions (represented by 1). IEEC is followed by the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) with a 2.7 rating, the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) located in Tarragona with a 2.5 rating and the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), in Greater Barcelona, with a 2.3 rating.

National and international recognised institutions

Catalan research centres have recently obtained mentions and recognition in both Spain and worldwide. This is the case of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Severo Ochoa seal of excellence, which this year was awarded to eight institutions, four of which are Catalan. The four centres were the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC), the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) and the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. All four will receive €1 million for four years and will have preferential access to scientific facilities.

One of the most recent international recognitions for the Catalan investigative field has been granted to a researcher from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), a leading world level research centre launched by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) and the Government of Catalonia. Professor Maciej Lewenstein, from the ICFO’s Quantum Optics research group, has received the highest scientific distinction in Poland granted by the Foundation for Polish Science. This recognition, which is known as the Polish Nobel Prize, has awarded Lewenstein for his exceptional contributions to quantum optics and the physics of ultra cold gases.

Academic institutions look for international exchanges

The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), which ranked 7th out of the top 100 universities participating in the Erasmus Programme, is an example of a Catalan institution willing to not only welcome foreign students, but also to expand its scope out of the country.

In November, the university announced the launch of the Ortelius Programme, an initiative that plans to develop new degrees and joint degrees, graduate and master programmes together with foreign universities from China, South Korea and Latin America. The internationalisation of the Catalan university has the aim of fostering the mobility of students, professors and researchers, and will be academically recognised.

Since June and following the promotion of mobility among students, the UAB is also part of Eurocampus. The project, which is the biggest university campus in Europe and the seventh biggest in the world, includes 100 university education centres across Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the French regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées.

Aiming for the labour market

In early December, the Catalan Government announced the creation of a new financial aid package intended to promote the internationalisation of the research and specialised staff recruitment for investigative projects in Catalan enterprises and research centres.  The financial support Connect-EU Gestió 2011, managed by the Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (Agaur), has been provided with €582,500 and will cover up to 60% of the hiring costs.