The Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities awards accreditations as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence or María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence with the aim of promoting the quality of Spanish scientific research by recognising the best centres and units that stand out for the relevance and impact, at international level, of the research results obtained during the previous reference period. This action is part of the institutional strengthening sub-programme of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020.
Two types of action are envisaged depending on the legal status, the degree of autonomy in administrative and economic management and the number of researchers. The selected research centres will be accredited as Severo Ochoa Centres of Excellence and the selected research units will be accredited as María de Maeztu Units of Excellence.
The recognition is granted through an annual competitive call for applications, subjecting the applications submitted to an evaluation and selection process carried out independently by an international scientific committee made up of researchers of recognised prestige and impact. Established centres or units applying for this programme must therefore:
- have a high level of impact and competitiveness in their field of activity on the world scientific stage,
- regularly submit their research activities to scientific evaluation processes by external and independent scientific committees,
- develop their research activities in accordance with a strategic programme that responds to the generation of cutting-edge knowledge,
- have training, selection and attraction activities for human resources at international level,
- maintain active collaboration and exchange agreements at institutional level with high-level research centres, and
- Work on strengthening activities for the transfer and dissemination of knowledge to society.
The accreditation as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence or María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence will be valid for four years and will confer reputation and social and scientific recognition; provide one million euros per year for each of the centres during this period or five hundred thousand euros per year in the case of the units; give priority access to other initiatives for the promotion of research.
The action is aimed at research centres and units in the public sector, as well as private non-profit research institutions, whose scientific leadership is proven at international level, with the capacity to contribute decisively to advancing the frontier of knowledge and generating high-impact results, as well as attracting talent.
The calls are managed by the State Research Agency.