A detailed common framework for the organizational structure of a Research Center is pictured in Figure 4. Consistent with this organizational structure, guidelines for the operation and administration of research by the Research Center participants, including those in Russia, will be developed as part of the Research Center request for proposals and research contract procedures. These are expected to include guidelines for grant and contract administration; expected or allowable research expenditures (faculty, student, postdoc, and researcher salaries; equipment; travel; materials and services, etc.); management of salary costs; reporting requirements (technical, fiscal, equipment and property, intellectual property); and financial review and control requirements. Such models and procedures are contemplated to be part of one or more workshops focused on university research and innovation management to be held in Russia.
To build these Research Centers, MIT will assist in the design of a Research Center creation process that operates through Skoltech, consisting of exploration of research needs and priorities, workshops to identify research opportunities based in part on these and on Skolkovo cluster directions and to foster awareness of potential partners, a preliminary white paper step with feedback to enable strong proposals, a proposal submission mechanism, a process for peer-review by international experts in the program area, and a decision making process and body within Skoltech that selects and recommends winning proposals for approval of funding and launch of Research Centers.
Each Research Center can propose a structure appropriate to its own targeted research and education challenge, specializing or consistent with the basic framework discussed above. For example, some centers may elect and propose to have researchers from three institutions (Skoltech, Russian, non-Russian) as pictured in Figure 4, while other centers may establish a sub-contract mechanism by which they could recruit and engage additional individual researchers from other universities or institutions that bring crucial or unique capability to the center. Similarly, some centers may expand their participation by establishing a mechanism for the engagement of industrial participants.
Each Research Center is expected to be of substantial scale in terms of funding and researcher participation in order to achieve four related goals. First, the Center should be of sufficient size to attack important and high impact research themes and problems through multiple collaborative projects. Second, the Center must be sufficiently broad to inspire and develop an educational track within a corresponding Skoltech educational Program. Third, the Center must generate a thematic research activity at Skoltech sufficient to attain a leadership position and provide an intellectual home and network of colleagues and collaborators for the required number of new Skoltech faculty. And fourth, the Center should seek to integrate (though with different degrees or weightings appropriate to the research challenge) aspects of science, engineering, and industrial application or impact.
The Research Centers will be an important mechanism for Skoltech to learn from, and collaborate with, multiple leading international research universities in addition to MIT, as well as build strong linkages to multiple leading Russian research institutes and universities. In particular, the multi-university structure, as well as the size or scale, of the Research Centers pictured in Figure 4, are meant to create and foster deeply collaborative research efforts within the Center. As indicated at the bottom of Figure 4, joint research between faculty, students, postdocs, and researchers across more than one of the participating institutions are desired at not just the Center level, but at the individual research project level. The Research Centers can also play an important human capacity development role: one criteria of a Research Center proposal will be a plan for the sharing of some number of postdocs, and for the exchange of students, among the Research Center participants. This, together with other research visits and exchanges, will also be important in fostering deeply collaborative research, and could develop candidates for future Skoltech and other Russian university faculty hires.
As with NSF STC and ERC models that couple research to education, the Research Centers will also couple to the Skoltech educational programs. The Research Centers will be expected to contribute to generation of new course materials, or to new educational “tracks” or degree specializations within the Skoltech Master’s and PhD degree programs. Well thought-out plans for educational as well as research contributions and collaborations will be key criteria for selection of winning Research Center proposals.
Finally, the Skoltech Research Center participants will be expected to benefit from, and develop strong linkages with, the Skoltech Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. These linkages include creation of industrial interfaces and participation models, research project identification and development mechanisms (e.g., Innovation Grants), as well as research contracting and intellectual property licensing standards and models.