No changes to Centre of Excellence call – decisions on Academy Professor scheme to be made in May–June

16 Apr 2024

The Research Council of Finland will not change the concept of the Finnish Centre of Excellence funding call. However, in future, CoEs will be encouraged to apply more actively for EU funding during their funding period. We will also open a separate Academy Professor call, but more details on its content will be made available later in the spring. The Board arrived at these decisions based on feedback from the research community and discussions within our decision-making bodies.

Over the past few months, the Research Council of Finland has been evaluating the Academy Professor and Centre of Excellence funding instruments. The evaluation is based on our aim to develop the funding schemes as two complementary rather than overlapping schemes. In their current form, the two funding opportunities partly have the same objectives and the same applicants, which has meant a lot of overlapping work for applicants and a laborious review process for the Research Council. In addition, the low success rate of the call for Academy Professor applications in particular has prompted a thorough examination of this funding instrument. The recommendations of the 2022 international evaluation of the Research Council of Finland also called for a more thorough evaluation of our funding schemes, especially the Academy Professor funding.

Based on the feedback we received from our stakeholder survey and workshop, the Centre of Excellence funding is perceived to work well in its current form, but there are many different views on the objectives of the Academy Professor funding.

During the first part of the year, we continued to discuss the results of the evaluation in our scientific councils and at the Board’s evening sessions.

As a result of these discussions, the Board decided on 11 April on the document that guides our funding activities: the criteria for funding decisions. As regards Centres of Excellence, the Board stated:

“A Centre of Excellence (CoE) is a research community that is striving for or already at the international cutting edge of research in its field. CoEs may consist of one or more research teams working closely together under a joint research plan.

The units granted Centre of Excellence (CoE) status by the Research Council of Finland are scientifically first-rate research communities that have capacity for renewal and high societal impact. The CoE programmes contribute to the renewal of science by supplying new research topics, new methods and approaches, and new research teams. Thanks to the long-term funding provided in collaboration with CoE host organisations, the funding instrument effectively works as an incentive for risk-taking and new initiatives in research.”

However, as a new addition to support the implementation of our international policy (PDF), the Board added an incentive for CoEs to be more active in applying for and obtaining EU funding. The incentive is intended to contribute to the Government Programme’s objective of doubling the EU R&D funding Finland receives, based on the final report of the parliamentary working group on RDI.

In the Research Council’s criteria for funding decisions, this point is formulated as follows: “When preparing and making funding decisions for the latter period, the level of funding will also take into account the CoE’s activity in applying for and receiving EU funding and its plans for the future after the end of the funding period.”

Next CoE call launches in June, following the same principles as the previous two calls

Call schedule for upcoming CoE call:

The Centre of Excellence call opens in June, and the deadline for letters of intent is 25 September 2024. The first-stage decisions will be made in April 2025. Full applications must be submitted in June 2025. The new CoEs will be selected in October 2025, and the funding periods will start on 1 January 2026.

Decisions on Academy Professor call due later in spring

During the spring, the Board will continue to discuss the details of the Academy Professor funding scheme. The various proposals will be carefully considered, and the funding scheme will be developed to reflect our new strategy.

In any case, the funding call is coming, and the aim is to make it predictable and organise it on a regular basis. This was particularly requested in the responses to the stakeholder survey.

We already know that the aim is to make the scheme more flexible. In future, the Academy Professor funding may cover research expenses as appropriate, such as the applicant’s own salary and/or the salaries of team members and other research expenses. This means that the funding will be decided with a single funding decision following the full cost model, as is the case in our other funding opportunities. The maximum funding amount will be stated in the call text.

As regards the Academy Professor scheme, the decision on the funding criteria document will be taken in May–June. The call schedule will be announced immediately after the decision.

Information on the decisions and call schedules will be posted on our website.

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