The aim of this funding opportunity is to support and speed up the strategic profiling of Finnish universities in order to improve their capacity for enhancing the quality of research.
The standard of scientific research in Finland is high, but in times of scarce resources it is becoming increasingly important to squeeze more out of the investments made.
The 2010 university reform in Finland gave universities the opportunity to develop and actively implement their own strategies. However, progress towards differentiation and stronger profiles, selecting key areas of focus and actively promoting those areas, has remained slow.
In connection with the revision of the university funding model, the decision was taken to incorporate strategy-based funding as part the system of core university funding. Furthermore, based on the classification of publications and student feedback, qualitative factors were given increased weight among the university core funding criteria. In itself, the funding model does not provide very strong incentive to making strategic profiling choices. Given the current state of central government finances in Finland, the state of business and industry today, the need to promote cooperation and the rapid changes unfolding in the research and innovation field, strong support is needed for more effective university profiles.
Targeted funding to strengthen Finnish universities’ research profiles was one of the instruments proposed in the research and innovation policy action programme drafted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in 2012. The corresponding proposal was also included among the recommendations issued in the international evaluation of the Academy of Finland.
How the funding is implemented
The Finnish Government’s public finances plan for 2015–2018 includes the gradual transfer over 2015–2019 of 50 million euros of central government finances earmarked to universities for allocation through the Academy of Finland. These funds will be used in their entirety to strengthen the research profiles of universities.
Main principles and concept definitions
Based on their own strategies, universities are invited to apply for funding with concrete plans for improving conditions for high-quality/high-impact research, detailing proposed profiling measures with clear schedules for each step. The funding is intended for measures that strengthen the universities’ strategic research fields (incl. new initiatives) and support any related deselections. The funding is open to all scientific, scholarly and artistic disciplines.
The funding is applied for by universities, each university with its own application. The funds will be made available in the form of fixed-term development funding to be used to cover the specific costs associated with the transitional changes.
A ‘profiling area’ is a research area that a university aims to develop according to its strategy. It is a select area of a university’s total spectrum of research activities.
Profiling areas can be:
- existing high-quality areas
- emerging areas with potential to reach the top level
- new areas with high potential.
A ‘profiling measure’ is an action that a university aims to carry out to advance a chosen profiling area.
The review will focus on the following criteria:
- how the action plan is linked to the university’s strategy
- scope and clarity of the proposed focus areas and deselections
- development needs and opportunities in the proposed focus areas
- how research in the proposed focus areas compares with international standards and what added value it generates in comparison to research at other Finnish units
- plans for reaching the international level of research
- new, strength-based initiatives and their resources
- the university’s commitment to the profiling measure and to advancing the quality of research, for example with resources freed as a result of deselections
- collaborative structures and distribution of work between universities, research institutes and other societal actors (incl. research infrastructure collaboration)
- significance of selections and deselections for competence-based growth and other needs in society.
There are 14 universities in Finland. Thirteen of them submitted applications to the PROFI 1 call in January 2015; all universities applied for funding in the PROFI 2 call in November 2015.
The applications were reviewed by an international panel of experts. The panel also interviewed university management representatives. The panel consisted of leading experts (professors, rectors, vice rectors, etc.) from European universities with wide and versatile experience of university operations.
Ten of the thirteen universities that submitted applications were granted funding in the PROFI 1 call. The four-year funding varied between 350,000 euros and 13.6 million euros. The PROFI 2 funding decisions were made in March 2016. Four-year funding was granted to twelve universities. The funding sums varied between 559,000 euros and 12 million euros.
The third call (PROFI 3) will be carried out in November 2016.