In its mid-term policy review in late April 2017, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Government decided on the allocation of funds to the Academy of Finland to implement a new ‘flagship programme’ for research clusters. The Academy will receive a total of 50 million euros to distribute through the flagship programme in 2018 and 2019.
The aim of the programme is to pool together expertise from different fields in Finland to form research clusters that can compete at an international level. These clusters will further contribute to increasing the quality and impact of Finnish research and to supporting the renewal of science.
The programme will reform established structures and foster new ways of working by bringing together experts characterised by a high level of scientific achievement and the pursuit of an international level of excellence. The programme will be based on research themes that have the highest level of importance and impact nationally, and it will consist of research teams with the highest scientific merits.
The funding to be awarded through the flagship programme can be applied for by universities and research institutes. The applicant universities and research institutes must be prepared to significantly invest in establishing and supporting the flagships. Allocating funding not to individual research teams but to organisations that have a strong commitment to the flagship programme is a way to support the long-term development of the research clusters and promote their broad impact.
The funding applications will be reviewed paying close attention to the flagship programme’s objectives concerning internationally top-level research, societal and economic impact, and collaboration between the private and public sectors. The funding decisions will therefore be based on both strict international peer review and robust impact assessment.
Following the Government’s decision, the Academy of Finland has started flagship negotiations with universities, research institutes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes), and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. An information meeting about the forthcoming funding call has been scheduled for June 2017 to go through the objectives and technical issues related to the call. The preparatory process will require close interaction and dialogue between the parties involved to reconcile the Government’s objectives and the aims and realities of the universities and research institutes in the best possible way.
Since the process has only just started, the specific details of the flagship programme have yet to be agreed. During the process, the Academy of Finland will draw on experiences gained from the application and review processes of its other funding instruments, such as the funding to strengthen university research profiles (PROFI), the Centre of Excellence funding and the funding for strategic research.
The first call of the flagship programme has been planned for November 2017. It will open simultaneously with the fourth PROFI call. The flagship funding decisions will be made in summer 2018.
In its mid-term policy review, the Finnish Government also decided that it will prepare to take part in the financing and development of the flagship research clusters by a capitalisation of 60 million euros during the initial stage. The practical implementation of the capitalisation will be addressed after the funding decisions on the research clusters to be included in the flagship programme have been made.
Original Finnish text by Riitta Tirronen