The programme, begun in 2003, has so far been spending NOK 155 million a year on 13 institutes judged world-class by the Norwegian Research Council. With the eight new nominees, the budget rises to NOK 235 million a year. The programme is funded from the investment income of a state oil fund - one of several uses to which Oslo has been applying its oil and gas profits over the past decade, in a national effort to plan for the day the oil runs out.
The nominations to the programme followed a national competition among 98 university departments and labs across the country. It also followed a special review of the programme that concluded that nine of the first 13 Centres of Excellence had successfully used the money to improve their research and gain more international recognition - though it also noted several organisational problems, in lab space and computer resources, among the fast-growing institutes.
The eight new labs are in earth sciences at the University of Bergen; in chemistry at the University of Tromso and in economics, philosophy/classics and biology at the University of Oslo. In addition, two labs at the Oslo Radiumhospitalet and the Simula Research Laboratory AS also won awards.