EUR 35 million to Academy Projects in natural sciences and engineering

(13th June 2011)

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering has decided to grant some EUR 35 million to Academy Projects. In the October 2010 call, the Research Council received a total of 433 applications for Academy Project funding. Of the applications submitted, 70 were granted funding. The average funding per project was some EUR 500,000. One in ten of the funded projects received more than EUR 700,000.

Academy Projects are the key funding opportunity provided by the Academy for research projects, designed to offer funding for projects where the researchers themselves select the topics. Non-tied project funding is a way to guarantee renewal in scientific disciplines as well as the freedom of scientific research. Academy Project funding provides researchers with an opportunity to carry out scientifically ambitious research, to achieve new breakthroughs and to engage in high-risk research. Most of the funded research involves international cooperation. Of the total funding granted by the Research Council, some EUR 5.5 million is aimed as support to the Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation (known in Finnish under the abbreviation SHOK).

RYM-SHOK to receive over EUR 1 million

The Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation of the built environment in Finland (RYM-SHOK), operating in the real estate and construction sector, submitted supporting statements for two Academy Project applications. In their reviews, the international experts rated both applications as scientifically high-standard, and the Research Council decided to grant them funding.

One of the funded projects is headed by Hannu Viitanen, Senior Research Scientist, (Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT). The project aims to develop and apply molecular biology technologies to solve the complex symptoms of microbiological biodiversity and contamination of buildings materials. The project will focus on developing new approaches to study complicated interactions between buildings, moisture, materials, microbes and indoor air quality aspects. On the basis of the research results, a draft risk assessment model for microbial growth and its impact on health and comfort will be developed and validated in controlled laboratory measurements.

Research funding to consortia

The Research Council allocated part of the project funding to consortia composed of several research teams. Consortia often carry out multidisciplinary research and research collaboration between research teams from several research institutes and universities.

The consortium led by Professor Jukka Konttinen is a collaborative effort between the University of Jyväskylä, Åbo Akademi University (team led by Nikolai DeMartin, DScTech) and the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT (team led by Antero Moilanen, DScTech). The research focus will be on biomass gasification. One of the technical challenges of biomass gasification is to understand the behaviour and impact of ash-forming material on biomass gasification. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the catalytic nature of the biomass and the release of ash-forming matter during gasification. The project will involve active cooperation with US and European research teams. The project also received a supporting statement from the energy and environment cluster CLEEN, one of the Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Support to large-scale research projects

The Research Council also supports a number of international research infrastructures that are included in the European Research Infrastructure Roadmap drafted by ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. One of the funded projects will make use of the Max-lab synchrotron radiation facility based in Sweden. 

Professor Mika Valden (Tampere University of Technology) is researching a novel electrospray-mediated supersonic molecular beam deposition technique (ES-SSMB) for controlled, covalent immobilisation of protein, enzyme or avidin-biotin complexes on silanised FeCrNiMn-based nano-patterned materials. Potential applications include biodiagnostics in the food and medical industry, as well as biofunctional implant coating materials. The research project will involve international researcher mobility with the Max-lab synchrotron radiation facility. In its infrastructure call in autumn 2010, the Academy contributed to the funding of the MAX IV project operating in connection of the Max-lab.

Mathias Groth, PhD, (Aalto University) is researching the harnessing of magnetically confined, burning fusion plasma. The aim is investigate the interaction between burning fusion plasma and the plasma wall using state-of-the-art computer simulations by taking advantage of new measurements from new test reactors based in the UK and Germany. The research is linked with the international ITER project, whose success will define the position of fusion as a potential source of energy in the future.

In the September 2011 call, the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering will allocate some EUR 2.5 million in separate funding for nuclear technology research.

Young researchers successful in reviews

Some 40 per cent of the applicants for Academy Project funding were under the age of 45. They were successful in the scientific reviews and, consequently, about half of those who were granted funding were under 45. The youngest among the grantees is Antti Stenvall, DScTech, (b. 1981) from Tampere University of Technology. Stenvall and his team will analyse the stability of hybrid superconducting magnets. A cost-effective way to make over 20 T magnets is attained through the hybridisation of low- and high-temperature superconducting magnets. These kinds of systems are studied in the sub-cell NMR imaging and long-term upgrade programme of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) accelerator at CERN, for instance.

More information:

  • Decisions on Academy Projects
  • Science Adviser Samuli Hemming, tel. + 358 40 147 1805
  • Science Adviser Antti Väihkönen, tel. +358 40 147 1756
  • Science Adviser Kati Lüthje, tel. +358 40 159 1395

Academy of Finland Communications
Vesa Varpula
Communications Specialist
tel. +358 9 7748 8458

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