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Source: In Russia, 'Lots of Scientists, Little Science'

Example:

In 2009, after nearly two decades of benign declarations, the Russian government spearheaded efforts to improve the situation drastically. Several signature projects were announced in the field of science: mega-grants to fund cutting edge laboratories, the establishment of the Skolkovo innovation center and the creation of national research universities.

Can anybody tell me what exactly a signature project is?

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A "signature" thing is the thing most associated with a person, or that person's greatest accomplishment. Like if you say, "The theory of relativity was Einstein's signature achievement", you mean that when people think of Einstein, it is likely that the first thing they will think of is the theory of relativity. It's common to say that some song is the singer's "signature song" if that song is their biggest hit. Etc.

The use here appears to be a variation on this, basically saying that they created projects that they expect will become known as the greatest achievements of these laboratories.

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