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The United Nations University (UNU) has unveiled plans for a major global research centre that will focus on innovation and development.

UNU intends the centre, to be based in Maastricht in the Netherlands, to achieve "world class research excellence". It would gather 100 researchers from developed and developing countries — making it the largest centre of its kind — to work on applying new technologies to the needs of developing nations.

The centre's objectives will be to focus on policy aspects of its research and to ensure the research has global relevance. It will also provide training and capacity building programmes at the academic and policy level.

The centre will be created through the merger of the UNU Institute for New Technologies (UNU-INTECH) with the Maastricht Economic Research Innovation and Technology (MERIT), an institute of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Luc Soete, founder and director of MERIT, says the aim of the merger is to: "create a centre of research excellence which has the potential to become of world significance."

When completed, the merger would provide resources for research in several areas, including the governance of science, technology and innovation.

A merger would also modernise the way research is carried out and shared between the two institutes. Traditionally MERIT has focused more on Europe and the west and UNU-INTECH on the developing world. However, Soete says such divisions are increasingly challenged by technological changes and by the emergence of countries in transition.

The motivation behind the proposal is "first and foremost intellectual" and not driven by economic considerations, says Soete, who is heading both institutes while the proposal awaits approval by the governing councils their respective universities.

The two institutions have a history of cooperation. Thirty students, mostly from developing nations, are participating in a joint PhD programme.