Opening submission for CERCA Research Impact Assessment 2024

The presentation period for the impact narratives of the CERCA centres runs from May 15 to July 15.

Since 2019, and because of the political commitment to define a global impact strategy in research as set out in the Science Law of the Generalitat de Catalunya, CERCA has been working and training the centres to advance in this field, which must demonstrate and give visibility to the demonstrable benefits of research in the real world, outside the academic field.

The project, guided initially by Julie Bayley, director of Research Impact Development at the University of Lincoln, has the support of a national and international advisory board. Its current members are Paula Adam (AQUAS), Jane Millar (Univ. of Bath), David Phipps (Univ. of Toronto), Susan Renoe (Univ. of Missouri), Miguel Sierra (INIA), Esther De Smet (Ghent University) and Anne-Maree Dowd (CSIRO).

Among other materials, there is a Glossary of Research Impact Terminology which includes the terminology most broadly used in both the European and the Anglo-Saxon countries, and it is intended to provide a theoretical common ground for the narratives submitted to RIA 2024.

Also, a panel member of international and local experts will evaluate each narrative, summarizing the main strengths and weaknesses.

Impact of research and its probable effects or benefits in the real world

The evaluation of impact is becoming relevant within all research Systems, as the British REF, and has also a prominent importance in european programs.

According to our definition. Impact of research are probable effects or benefits of the research in the ‘real world’ (e.g. economy, society, culture, environment and the planet), beyond academia.

  • Impact can arise at any time, any location and be of any type.
  • Impacts may be most easily thought of as research leading to something being increased (e.g. efficiency, effectiveness, well-being, engagement access, profit, skills, increases), reduced (e.g. mortality, waste, risk, cost, staff turnover, stress, crime), stopping something (e.g. dangerous practice) or preventing something (e.g. the deterioration of heritage sites).
  • Impact is corroborated by any quantitative or qualitative evidence that shows these real-world changes.
  • As impact denotes change in the real world, it cannot be indicated in terms of academic interest, reputation, citations or publications in journals.
  • Impact can arise from research findings (new knowledge) or from research processes (i.e. the practice of research acts as a catalyst for change).

Karolinska Institutet’s innovation model opens the Connection Day

CERCA organizes the Connection Day opening conference with Johan Weigelt, CEO of Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB

Johan Weigelt conference organized by CERCA opened the second edition of the Connection Day, an initiative by Catalonia Bio to connecting and gathering within the health sector.

Although the CERCA agora is a closed meeting, this edition was accessible to all the sector so Weigelt, CEO of Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB, could introduce the Karolinska innovation model.

Weigelt talked about the close relationship among academia, healthcare, and industry and underlined the specificities of the Swedish system as the so-called ‘professors privilege’, which means that intellectual properties are owned by professors and investigators. “This system has pros and cons, but it works”.

Good research and contacts

The presentation also focused on the company that supports the Karolinska Institutet in terms of innovation. The Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB holding company sells services to promoting the commercialization of research and developing start-ups in a three-phase program (idea promotion, consolidation and maturation, in a final incubator phase that lasts three years). For Weigelt, its strength lies in “having a very strong research base and a good network of industrial experts and business coaches”.

CERCA also arranged one-to-one meetings with the representative of Karolinska and the presence at ConnectionDay24 allowed the connection with agents of the sector and centres from the CERCA system.

Citisystem: learning about circular economy in Belgium

Citisystem celebrates the third interregional meeting in Mechelen, Belgium

The Citisystem project, which promotes the circular economy of cities, hold its third interregional meeting in Mechelen (Belgium) between April 24th and 26th.

All the partners presented the latest updates on their regions’ circular bio-economy and bio-waste management together with some relevant data regarding food waste (a third of the food produced is not spent) and actions to promote circularity and waste management in the domestic sphere.

From the CERCA system, IRTA presented the LIFE INFUSION project: the aim is to convert the liquid fraction of the digestate from the treatment of biowaste at waste management plants in the Barcelona area into sustainable water through the removal of ammonium.

The city of Mechelen, which is amongst the partners of the Citisystem project, explained its transition towards a greener and more sustainable city in recent years and offered a tour to show the results.

Together with the meeting, partners and entities attended the Bio-Based City, a bio-economy market to explore ongoing circularity initiatives, and the Mechelen Climate Conference, and also visited examples of good practices around the city.

Moving towards circularity

In the European Union, between 118 and 138 million tonnes of bio-waste are generated each year and only 40% is effectively recycled into high-quality compost and digestate. The fraction of bio-waste plays an important role in the transition to the circular economy, especially if we consider that up to 50% of municipal solid waste is organic.



First Meeting of the New Director of CERCA with Centre Directors

The Minister of Research and Universities, Joaquim Nadal, the Director General of Research Joan Gómez Pallarès and the Director of CERCA, Laia Pellejà, met today with the directors of the 42 centres that are part of the CERCA system. Nadal congratulated the centres that have recently achieved the distinction of Severo Ochoa centres of excellence and highlighted the positive spiral of the CERCA system.

The new Director, Laia Pellejà, took the opportunity to outline some points of her project, which begins with getting to know “the centres, their research, histories, and concerns” in detail. Among the priorities is the renewal of the assessment system, which will be worked on jointly with the centres. At the same time, she wants the institution to be seen as a reference point that helps to resolve doubts and implement joint policies.

With a clear international orientation, Pellejà emphasised the prominent position of the CERCA system in global rankings, stating that “as a system, we are unstoppable.” However, she recognises the need to increase the visibility of the centres among the public, and therefore, she will emphasise communication so that students and future researchers become familiar with and embrace the system. Alongside the science law, Pellejà will also implement language policies, gender equality plans, and technology transfer plans.

Plan to promote innovation in Social Sciences and Humanities: a visit to Leiden University

The programme is aimed at the seven CERCA centres in this area and proposes to identify challenges and good international practices that promote innovation in our environment.

On February 26 and 27th, a group of research staff and transfer managers from the seven CERCA centres for Social Sciences and Humanities (CED, CREI, IBEI, ICAC, IPHES, ICRPC and ICP) visited Leiden University in Netherlands.

The objective of the visit was to personally interview Dr. Jessica Meijer, head of innovation and business development at LURIS, the transfer unit of Leiden University. Dr. Meijer had worked with the managers of CERCA centres previously to prepare an action plan to be included in their strategic agenda, so they work on transfer of innovation and impact of their research towards society.

During the trip, the participants learned about the operation of the “Digital Scholarship”, which specializes in the application of digital technologies in the academic and research world.

The “Digital Humanities Lab” was also presented. It is a platform that offers advanced equipment and specialized staff to meet the demands of research staff and students.

The plan to boost innovation in the social sciences and humanities is part of the CERCA programme on transfer of knowledge started in 2024 with funding from the General Directorate of Transfer and Knowledge Society.

Laia Pellejà, appointed new director of the CERCA Institute

Doctor in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Master in Public Management, Pellejà was until now the manager of the ICIQ-CERCA Research Centre in Tarragona

Dr Laia Pellejà i Puxeu will take over the management of the CERCA Institute, as of 1 March, after the Board of Trustees approved the appointment proposal made by the Catalan Minister of Research and Universities, Joaquim Nadal i Farreras.

Born in Tarragona in 1979, Laia Pellejà holds a degree in Chemistry from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and a master and doctorate in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology from the same university. She also holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the School of Public Administration of Catalonia (EAPC) and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC).

Her professional career has been developed mainly in various positions of responsibility at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ-CERCA), where he has been manager since 2020 until now. Previously, she was responsible for the area of Scientific Dissemination and Training between 2014 and 2020 and was a laboratory engineer (2010-2014) and project researcher (2005-2009).

The new director of CERCA is also a member of the Content and Programme Advisory Council of the Catalan Audiovisual Media Corporation, of the Community of Practice for the Evaluation of Public Policies of the Government of Catalonia (CoAVA) and of the current board of the Catalan Society of Chemistry. She has also co-authored a patent and has 17 publications in international scientific journals.

Pellejà will succeed Dr Lluís Rovira i Pato, who has held this position the last 13 years, from 2011 to 2024.


Dra. Laia Pellejà.
Dr Laia Pellejà.

New programme to promote the transfer of knowledge in CERCA system

Activities focus on commercialization, innovation and transfer. The first session is dedicated to the new patent system in Europe.

Throughout 2024, I-CERCA will develop activities to promote and communicate the transfer of knowledge within the CERCA System. These activities are related to the Strategic Plan for Innovation and Knowledge Transfer promoted by the Research and Universities Ministry through the Directorate General of Transfer and Knowledge Society.

A fundamental part of the program is based in the training and qualification of the personnel who work at the transfer units of the CERCA centres. This group, set up as a Transfer Community, will meet every month to exchange experiences, success stories and best practices.

First session was led by Enric Carbonell, European patent agent and partner in the Barcelona office of ABG Intellectual Property with whom I-CERCA has signed a collaboration agreement. ABG IP is a leading European firm in industrial property and will be preparing a series of informative pills to promote the use of patents and trademarks.

Because of recent changes in the patent system in Europe, it is possible to request that European patents have a unitary effect after being granted; therefore, legal protection of inventions is valid through a single procedure in the 17 member states of the EU.

Alexandra Romero, from The Collider program of Mobile World Capital Barcelona, also participated in the session. She focused on the development of the program linked to the Venture Building of the European Innovation Council (EIC in its English acronym) and its need for investment capital.

Anabel Sanz, head of the technology and business development office of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), explained the internal organization and the challenges faced by her unit.

New unitary patent System

Until its implementation, this procedure could only be carried out country by country in those states in which the holder desired to be patented. In fact, the procedure is still the most convenient in some cases and it is the only option for a European patent to be valid in Spain, which remains outside the system. Enric Carbonell pointed out that Spain is not part of the unitary patent, but this doesn’t prevent Catalan innovative organizations from opting for it.

The new patent system means lower costs, less paperwork and reduced administrative burden for innovators but a series of risks and conditions must also be taken into account. In the training session, Enric Carbonell explained the positive aspects and the drawbacks, offering a strategic vision for the future of organizations’ projects.

CITISYSTEM sustainable urban solutions present in the Smart City Expo World Congress

The project is to support regions and cities in promoting the bio-based circular economy

The CITISYSTEM consortium has been present in the Smart City Expo World Congress, the biggest event for cities and urban innovation, held in Barcelona from 7-9 November.

Catalan agents and stakeholders involved in the European project CITISYSTEM gathered on 9 November 2023 with representatives from all other CITISYSTEM partner countries at the Smart City Expo World Congress to learn from a dissemination event where experiences, good practices, and new strategies to strengthen circular bioeconomy were shared.

As presented by Katerina Medkova, CITISYSTEM’s Lead Partner from LAB University of Applied Sciences, Finland, the project aims to develop circular bioeconomy on the systemic and stakeholder levels and, by sharing knowledge and potential solutions, allow everyone to capitalize on already tested solutions.

Sharing Catalan Expertise

In representation of the Department of Climate Action, Food, and Rural Agenda, Miriam González showcased the 2030 Catalan Bioeconomy Strategy (EBC2030), defining it as an opportunity to advance toward economic, social and environmental sustainability while guaranteeing territorial balance.

EBC2030 is coordinated by a cross-cut technical unit and fosters complicity between stakeholders to take actions such as spearhead R+D+i and technological transfer, encourage the use and consumption of bioproducts, bioenergy, and biomaterials, or strengthen the role of the administration to adapt policies in favour of circular bioeconomy,

Already in motion, the 1st Action Plan focuses on improving forest management, creating resilient agroforestry landscapes, and recovering coproducts and byproducts from the food chain and livestock dejections and organic waste to be reused as, for instance, biogas and biomethane or innovative organic fertilizers.

Representing Strategic Planning of the Catalan Waste Agency, Director Francesc Giró addressed Catalan policies regarding waste collection. In 1993, Catalonia’s Waste Law already obliged its citizens to separate biowaste: then, separate biowaste collection was 1.4%; in 2022, it had risen to 47.2%. Nevertheless, there are still many challenges to overcome: from advancing in efficient separate collection systems in large cities and densely populated municipalities to facing the appearance of compostable materials in the collection and treatment of biowaste.

Thus, as of 2023, a new law is being drafted on waste prevention, management, and efficient use of resources, and a Circular Economy Roadmap is being developed to tackle these challenges and continue taking steps toward a greener society.

Towards a better future

The event concluded with a dynamic round-table moderated by Lluis Rovira, CERCA’s director, and Maria Jäppinen, LAB’s communication officer, who put forward insightful and thought-provoking questions that sparked debate and left everyone involved invigorated and motivated to continue working towards creating healthier and more sustainable cities for future generations.

Presentation of the Citisystem Project at the Smart City Expo World Congress

The second edition of Àgora, the CERCA manager training program, begins

The second edition of the Àgora program was inaugurated today with a presentation dedicated to the Charter and Code of Conduct for research staff.

The session, led by Dr Michele Rosa-Clot, manager of the HRS4R portfolio at the European Commission’s General Directorate for Research and Innovation, addressed the evolution of the Charter and the Code of Conduct and its implementation mechanism, the Human Resources strategy for Researchers (HRS4R), in its current format.

Dr Rosa-Clot also discussed the future evolution of the program focusing on the proposed recommendation recently adopted by the Council on a European framework to attract and retain talent in the field of research, innovation and entrepreneurship in europe.

Àgora is a management development program aimed at the management of CERCA centers that offers monthly debate and exchange sessions with experts from different fields on the most relevant topics that may affect the management of the centers.

The following sessions planned for this year will revolve around the State’s funding programs and, in particular, the Severo Ochoa Program, the supervision exercised by the Audit Office on the performance of the CERCA centers and the creation of Groups of Economic Interest (AIE).

“CERCA, the future is our present” The new campaign to publicize the System of research centres in Catalonia

With the motto “A CERCA, the future is our present,” the main objective of this campaign is to spread the word and bring the Catalan Research Centres System closer to the public.

Starting this Wednesday until the month of July, an exclusive advertisement will be broadcasted on the media channels of the Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals (CCMA) to promote the Catalan Research Centres.

With the new campaign, the CERCA Centres aspire to reach a wider audience, underlining their importance as a motor of research and innovation in Catalonia and highlighting their outstanding role in the national and international arena. With this, it is hoped to foster a greater awareness and appreciation for the work carried out by the CERCA Centres, as well as its direct impact on the present and the future of our society.

The CERCA System is one of the main actors in the field of research and innovation in Catalonia. However, it is not always well known. For this reason, it is essential that citizens know that these Centres are part of a cohesive system, made up of a total of 41 research institutes, all of which are participated by the Government of Catalonia. The Centres and the CERCA Foundation (I-CERCA), configure the CERCA System and work side by side to promote scientific research and the transfer of knowledge and innovation.

The CERCA system employs nearly 16,900 people considered R&D staff, of which almost 10,000 are research staff. It has basic funding from the Government which in 2021, reached €294 million and has managed to attract competitive and non-competitive resources up to a total budget of €790 million (2021). The system also acts as a pole of attraction for international talent. Currently, 25% of its staff come from outside Spain, demonstrating its reputation as a top-level workplace in the field of research and innovation.

Likewise, the CERCA System is widely recognized in Europe. Within the framework of the H2020 Program, it captured a total of €554 M and 1,114 projects, of which 454 were projects coordinated from the Centres themselves. These impressive results place the CERCA System in fifth position in the European ranking, surpassing renowned institutions such as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In the current Horizon Europe 2021-2027 program, the CERCA System has already raised more than €120 million, further consolidating its position as one of the main fundraisers for European research grants.

The I-CERCA Foundation plays a fundamental role as a coordination and support structure. Working for its corporate, institutional and scientific projection, the foundation contributes to putting into practice the policies of the Government of Catalonia aimed at the Centres of the CERCA system as stated in the Science Law, approved in December 2022.