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The Sala Gran at the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya was packed yesterday with people eager to witness the announcement of the winners of the 2011 National Research Awards granted by the Government of Catalonia. Head of the Executive Branch Artur Mas presided over the event, highlighting that when these awards were created 21 years ago, “research in Catalonia was measured on a more individual level, as there were very unique references. Today we can say that we are reaching a significant critical mass.” Mas also transmitted the message that Catalonia “is on the verge of becoming the laboratory of Southern Europe.”

The National Research Awards are the top recognition bestowed in the research arena in Catalonia. This year’s awards, in addition to recognizing research, also honored collaborations between the private and public sectors, scientific patronage, and efforts to raise awareness of science through the media.

This year’s award-winners are:

  • 2011 National Research Award: Jordi Galí, PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), director of the Center for Research in International Economics (CREI), tenured professor at Pompeu Fabra University and research fellow at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. He is a worldwide leader in the new Keynesian economy, a scientific theory that is quickly becoming the standard in macroeconomics.
  • National Research Award for Young Talent: Núria López-Bigas, PhD in Biology and research fellow at ICREA, Pompeu Fabra University. Her research focuses on bioinformatics (the application of computational methods to manage biological data and analyses) and has obtained results of clear interest for healthcare and applications in the clinical and industrial spheres. 
  • National Award for Public/Private Partnership in Research and Innovation: IBM and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). The MareIncognito project, which is the result of ongoing collaboration between the computer company and the BSC, aims to develop supercomputers 100 times more powerful than the MareNostrum, reaching calculation speeds of more than 10 petaflops (10 thousand billion operations per second).
  • National Award for Scientific Patronage: Pere Mir, PhD in Chemical Science and president of the Cellex Foundation. The Cellex Foundation currently funds 16 research projects at Catalan centers of excellence. Their portfolio includes significant projects such as those at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (€16 millions), August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (€10 millions) and the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology.
  • National Award for Scientific Communication: Televisió de Catalunya program Valor Afegit. According to the panel of judges, Valor afegit demonstrates Catalan public television’s commitment to teaching and showing the current state of research in the economic arena.

Of the five award-winners, three have close ties to the life sciences arena. Dr. Pere Mir assured the audience that the Cellex Foundation "will maintain its level of patronage for research projects.” Dr. Francesc Subirada, deputy director of the BSC, said that after 11 years collaborating with IBM it is clear that "public/private partnership is key to competitiveness." Additionally, Dr. Núria López-Bigas explained, "now more than ever, research is a collective task that is becoming more highly recognized by society."

Catalan Minister of Economy and Knowledge Andreu Mas-Colell and Catalan Minister of Health Boi Ruiz also attended the awards ceremony. At the end of the event, President Mas asked all the researchers present “to work towards converting this research, over time, in economic goods, so it can thus generate wealth in Catalonia.”

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