The University of St.Gallen has been crucially shaped by its institutes, research institutes and centers. They complement the five schools, which are responsible for teaching and conduct basic research. Whereas institutes and research institutes are closely linked to a school, centers are closely linked to several institutes and research institutes since centers are cooperation ventures between several HSG institutes and research institutes.
Centers aim to work jointly in a shared academic research and service field. This is necessary because the research and service fields cannot be presented to the outside world under the umbrella of an individual institute or an individual research institute. Centers are virtual units and must not be confused with competence centres within institutes. Centers also have a display window function: they show their members’ competencies, capacities and activities to the outside world.
Applications for the establishment of a center are examined and approved by the President’s Board. The partners of a center regulate their joint work in the form of a cooperation agreement. The number of centers is limited. At present, there are eleven centers at the University of St.Gallen. Centers have officially been in existence since 2006. The Center for Aviation Competence (CFAC-HSG) was set up a year earlier – in 2005 – as the HSG's first center.
A center is run by a college of experts; the management is conducted by someone from one of the institutes involved. This is laid down in the cooperation agreement. In terms of administration and accountancy, a center is affiliated to the institute which provides the chief executive. This institute is designated the lead institute.
Centers are labelled as "Center for …" according to the topic shared by the institutes. The label chosen must be clearly distinguishable from the names of existing institutes. The "Center" label is exclusively reserved for the organisation units involving several institutes as described above and thus cannot be confused with the competence centres run within individual institutes.