The mission of the CERCA Institute is to guarantee the correct development of the Catalan research centre system; foster and maximise synergies, inter-centre coordination and strategic cooperation; improve the positioning, visibility and impact of the research carried out, and facilitate dialogue with the different public and private stakeholders.

Eleven years have passed since the CERCA Institute was created, and more than fifteen years since the idea originated to create an ecosystem of research centres of excellence capable of attracting talent. Looking back, we can only value the outcome very positively, despite the obstacles we may have encountered along the way.

In 2010, a plan was put into motion to organise the network of Government of Catalonia centres in order to see them grow, bring them closer to the best European models and at the same time increase their visibility.
In response, an assessment of the centres was immediately launched, an indirect indicator of the system’s maturity. In light of the effect of the economic crisis, since 2012 assessment has acted as a factor of analysis that, among other things, has helped ensure that any institutions resulting from mergers maintain their level of scientific rigour and achieve their objectives.

The application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution during 2017 generated serious problems in regard to the payments, organization and call of governing bodies, which together we all resolved.

From 2018 we began to see the results of what a system of research centres is capable of, and we have seen how the CERCA Institute has gone on to become the sixth most funded entity within the Horizon 2020 programme, receiving a total of 444.5 million euros by the end of 2020.

The current system’s strengths would not have been achieved without the participation of each of the centres and, in turn, this strength as a whole also impacts on the units that comprise it, helping them grow. Good results spur the whole system on to tackle the challenges at hand, which include the no less important part related to visibility. We must give the CERCA centres greater visibility in Catalonia and in Europe, and ensure that we be recognised as one of research’s main players. We must see to it that, on our own merits, we are invited to participate in the decision-making and consultation processes that the European Commission engages in with researchers, too often left to bodies that leave us out of the loop.

The system has matured and it is time to make our way to more ambitious positions that will serve to bring us closer to what we would like to be. To think that we could have a system of centres similar to the Max Planck Society should not be fancy or a dream, but rather a goal.

That the centres be seen as a unified whole has always been the will of the CERCA Institute. Without a doubt, this shared vision and the joys it brings should resonate throughout Catalonia’s network of research centres, which, it must be remembered, is deeply rooted in the Catalan university system.

Lluís Rovira
January 2021