Gives you research points to spend on researching new technologies. Costing $100 when you start the game, it will produce 1 Research per tick. The amount it produces can be modified by spending money in the upgrade tab. In the research tab you can buy a upgraded version called the Advanced Research Center.
Any obsolete islands should be left entirely for research. For example, if you have unlocked village and think island is useless, replace all mechanisms on island with research centers.