What is an ‘institutional partnership’?

What is an ‘institutional partnership’?

Map of EMBL Partnerships (©EMBL)

EMBL institutional partnerships are close cooperative affiliations between EMBL and external institutions of comparable standard, vision and international orientation. They are working relationships at the institutional level that are based on shared institutional goals and scientific synergy or complementarity. Their aim is to leverage the successful EMBL model and competences, together with the strengths of the partners, to create an interlinked system of excellent institutions and thus enhance the development of the molecular life sciences in Europe and the world.


What is the mechanism for establishing a partnership?

Once a proposal for collaboration is on the table, the EMBL directorship launches a negotiation procedure with the interested institution. The negotiation draws on a set of general rules, established by EMBL Council simultaneously with the approval of the Scientific Programme 2001-2005. According to these rules, EMBL partnerships are special cooperations with national institutions in EMBL member states that do not require Council approval. The final decision to enter into a partnership is at the discretion of EMBL Director General.


What are the main requirements for establishing a partnership?

Although every partnership is tailor made in order to best serve the needs of the institutions involved, there are certain criteria that should be met. Most importantly, all EMBL partnerships build upon the principle of scientific excellence.

Partner institutes should be – or have the ambition to become – leading at least at the national level, preferably at the international level, in the research area they pursue.

Also, for the partnership to be of mutual benefit, partner institutes should be engaged in activities that complement the research conducted in EMBL. Scientific complementarity can be fulfilled in different ways: it can encompass entire research fields that are not covered by EMBL or areas in which EMBL is active, but in which synergy can be achieved through a partnership.

Further, partner institutes are encouraged to adopt aspects of EMBL administrative model, such as international recruitment, regular external review, staff turnover system, etc.

Notably, although EMBL can provide to its partners resources in terms of scientific expertise and exchange of services and know-how, net transfer of EMBL financial resources to partner institutes is not possible. Partner organisations are responsible for securing their own funding.


Why does EMBL enter into partnerships?

There are two main incentives for entering into partnerships. Firstly, EMBL and the partner organisations mutually reinforce the quality of their research by complementing each other’s expertise, exchanging valuable know-how and making joint use of services and infrastructure. Second, partnerships satisfy the member states’ request for integration of national scientific communities within EMBL’s research culture and scientific expertise.


What are the characteristics of local and remote partnerships?

Current institutional partnerships are divided into two categories: local and remote.

Local partnerships involve institutions on or near EMBL campuses, and emerged from the recognised benefits of sharing infrastructure and equipment. Due to their nature they stimulate close collaboration between the stakeholders and facilitate the coordination of all activities taking place within the joint unit.

Remote partnerships were inspired by the desire of member states to make sure that EMBL’s research strategy and successful operational model are implemented on the national level. In this sense, remote partnerships comprise not only an inter-institutional research initiative, but also a tool for securing better integration and participation of national scientific communities into EMBL’s activities and opportunity for national institutions to benefit from EMBL’s successful organisational model.


What are the benefits for a partner institute?

By entering into partnership with EMBL, partner institutes gain significant international visibility and add to their international profile. As a result, the recruitment system of partner institutes is internationalised, and the quality and quantity of their recruitment pool is enhanced.

Additionally, partnerships bridge the expertise of highly qualified researchers and thus facilitate ambitious joint research projects whose goals can only be accomplished through a coordinated European effort.


How are partner institutes selected?

Research institutes should fulfill the aforementioned requirements in order to be eligible for potential partnerships. EMBL approaches partnerships in two ways – reactively and proactively.

Proactively, partnerships are initiated by EMBL whenever there is a need for scientific collaboration, usually in terms of shared infrastructure, facilities and services. Local partnerships were created in this manner.

Reactively, EMBL would not seek out new partnerships, but would consider a potential collaboration once a proposal is raised by member states. This approach is used in the establishment of remote partnerships. Overall, the reactive approach prevails in EMBL partnership policy. Once a member state partnership initiative is approved, there are various methods of selecting the partner institute.