UCMR - a “jewel in the crown” of the Linnaeus Centres of Excellence in Sweden
[2020-03-05] “Yes, do it again!”, was the short answer of Jürgen Mlynek, professor at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, on the question if the Linnaeus Programme has been successful. The evaluation of the 40 Centres of Excellence (CoE) within the Linnaeus Programme was presented and discussed at the Swedish Centre of Excellence Investments Conference last Wednesday in Stockholm. The programme was set up by Swedish Research Council (VR) and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) after a governmental decision in 2005 and provided 10-years funding to each CoE.
The international Expert Panel, chaired by Jürgen Mlynek, and co-chaired by Marja Makarow, professor and director at the Biocenter in Helsinki, Finland, focused on three areas: Research performance, societal relevance and international competitiveness. UCMR was in all three areas ranked as one of the top three centres, as highlighted by Mlynek and Makarow during the conference.
“Build on what was already strong”
In its report, the reviewers especially mentioned the strategy of the UCMR leadership, namely the “distinguished first Director of UCMR”, professor Bernt Eric Uhlin, who had the aim “to build on what was already strong and then hire the best people”. UCMR was early out to develop model systems to identify new control strategies to combat antimicrobial resistance. The evaluation panel was so impressed by the centre’s research performance that it judged it as “one of the jewels in the crown” of the Linnaeus Centres.
“We are indeed very pleased with the panel´s rating of UCMR as a Centre of Excellence with top qualities. This gives us strong encouragement for the continued development of a vivid and strong research environment among UCMR researchers”, commented Bernt Eric Uhlin
The panel also was asked to identify the top three universities that can serve as good examples for both hosting CoE´s but also for using the investment to further their international competitiveness. Here, Umeå University was ranked among the top three universities, based on criteria which addressed organization, management, knowledge transfer, collaboration and communication, and added value of the CoE.
Umeå Centre for Microbial Research (UCMR) was awarded a Linnaeus Grant of 90 million SEK for the period of 2008-2018 from the Swedish Research Council. Initially, a consortium of 16 UCMR principle investigators stood behind an application that was strongly endorsed by the university’s vice-chancellor at that time, Göran Sandberg. UCMR was formed 2004-2005 as a bottom-up initiative with the vision to establish a world-leading and sustainable science environment promoting cutting-edge biomedical research in molecular infection medicine at Umeå University. It included a multi-disciplinary group of research faculty from both the faculty of medicine and the faculty for science and technology. A large number of additional researchers became affiliated to UCMR over the years and by 2019 the UCMR network consisted of more than 80 principle investigators and their research groups.
The UCMR research environment was the basis for establishment of MIMS
Thanks to the UCMR, many excellent scientists were internationally recruited to different departments with life science research in Umeå. And the establishment of The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS) was entirely based on UCMR and its aim towards a world-leading and sustainable science environment in molecular infection medicine. At the onset of MIMS was also the successful recruitment of Emmanuelle Charpentier who did her seminal work on the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 during her time at MIMS and UCMR.
New Leadership took over
When the funding by the Linnaeus Programme ended, the UCMR kept on its activities and during the 11th UCMR DAY, which was organised in January 2020, the new UCMR leadership was announced. Under the directorship of Yaowen Wu, professor at the department of chemistry, co-chaired by Teresa Frisan, professor at the Department of Molecular Biology, Constantin Urban, associate professor at the Department of Clinical Microbiology, and Fredrik Almqvist, professor at the Department of Chemistry, the UCMR will continue to work for excellent research at Umeå University.
"Congratulations to UCMR and all who have contributed to this outstanding consortium. The success of UCMR shows that curiosity-driven and bottom-up initiatives are crucial for establishment of sustainable research environments fostering internationally competitive research. UCMR will continue strengthening world-class researches in the fields of microbial pathogenesis, host cell biology and chemical biology", says Yaowen Wu after the presentation at the Swedish Centre of Excellence Investments Conference in Stockholm.
Additional information about the final evaluation of the Linnaeus Programme (including the list of members of the evaluation panel)
Contact persons for more information:
Bernt Eric Uhlin, professor, founding director of UCMR until 2019
Phone: 090-785 67 31; 070-675 7344
Yaowen Wu, professor and director of UCMR since 2020
(text: Eva-Maria Diehl, pictures: Mattias Pettersson)