The Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness grants Severo Ochoa and María de Maeztu certificates to research centres and units of excellence, respectively, in any field of science. It is the highest distinction at the national level for entities that promote excellence in research. These certificates of excellence are granted by means of an annual competition among a small number of entities for a limited number of years. Once this period has passed, the entities must go through a competitive selection process again to renew their certificates.
Most of the Portuguese scientific research is carried out in the R&D Units and associated laboratories, which finances and evaluates the FCT. There are currently 307 accredited R&D Units where close to 22,000 researchers work.
The research carried out in these institutions covers all scientific fields, from life sciences and health sciences to social and human sciences, as well as engineering, exact sciences, natural and environmental sciences. The institutions are evaluated regularly by the FCT.