Finland took home 14 ERC grants in 2019 – prestigious Synergy Grant to Otso Ovaskainen

17 Jan 2020

Finland took home 14 grants of all funding granted by the European Research Council (ERC) in 2019. LIFEPLAN, an international project headed by Professor Otso Ovaskainen, received the highly competitive Synergy Grant, 12.6 million euros in total.

LIFEPLAN is an extensive project where Ovaskainen will be collaborating with Tomas Roslin of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and David Dunson of Duke University. The purpose of this six-year project is to map global biodiversity with the latest scientific tools.

Watch the video:

ERC grants are one of the most prestigious funding opportunities for research in Europe. Each year, the ERC provides Starting Grants to early-career researchers, Consolidator Grants to mid-career researchers and Advanced Grants to established, leading researchers. In addition to a high scientific standard, applications are required to include approaches that support scientific renewal.

Synergy Grants are designed to support multidisciplinary groups of 2–4 principal investigators (PIs). Applications for Synergy Grants must show that the proposed research cannot be carried out by a single PI working alone. Otso Ovaskainen is only the second Finn to receive a Synergy Grant. Finland’s first ERC Synergy Grant came in 2018 and went to Professor Risto Ilmoniemi and the ConnectToBrain project, which is aimed at developing new techniques for brain research, disease diagnostics and patient care.

Varying success in ERC calls

Since the start of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme for 2014–2020, Finland has become increasingly successful in ERC calls, with varying success rates between schemes. Towards the end of Horizon 2020, Finland’s overall success rate has turned into a slight decline.


ERC grants in relation to population size

Relative to population size, Finland is the sixth most successful country in ERC calls. In terms of research FTEs, however, the success rate could be better. Most ERC calls follow a two-step process, and Finnish researchers have a below-average likelihood of reaching the second step.

ERC grants in relation to reseracher FTEs (HE and public sectors)

Maturing the research idea by applying for national research funding may improve the chances of producing a research proposal that is successful in ERC calls. A large proportion of ERC-funded Finnish researchers have had ongoing or previous funding from the Academy of Finland. Researchers should also familiarise themselves with the ERC’s objectives and application guidelines in good time and consider what is the most appropriate time for applying for funding.

The Academy of Finland regularly organises interview training for researchers preparing for the second-stage interviews of Starting Grant and Consolidator Grant calls. From the ERC’s calls in 2019, Finland will receive approximately 30 million euros for research.

Watch Professor Otso Ovaskainen’s tips on how to get an ERC Synergy Grant:

Statistics on ERC calls 2019:

  • ERC Starting Grant:
    • Federico Bianchi, University of Helsinki: Chasing pre-industrial aerosols, PE10
    • Juha Muhonen, University of Jyväskylä: Optomechanical quantum bus for spins in silicon, PE3
    • Paavo Rasilo, Tampere University: Multiscale Magnetic Models for Emerging Energy Conversion Applications, PE8
    • Alexandru Ioan Tomescu, University of Helsinki: Safe and Complete Algorithms for Bioinformatics, PE6
    • Claire Treat, University of Eastern Finland: The role of non-growing season processes in the methane and nitrous oxide budgets in pristine northern ecosystems, PE10
  • ERC Consolidator Grant:
    • Jan Deska, Aalto University: Artificial Enzyme Modules as Tools in a Tailor-made Biosynthesis, PE5
    • Jaakko Lehtinen, Aalto University: Learning Pixel-Perfect 3D Vision and Generative Modeling, PE6
    • Kristiina Mannermaa,University of Helsinki: Animals Make identities. The Social Bioarchaeology of Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Cemeteries in North-East Europe, SH6
    • Kirsi Mikkonen, University of Helsinki: Green Route to Wood-Derived Janus Particles for Stabilized Interfaces, PE8
    • Henning Trüper, University of Helsinki: Archipelagic Imperatives: Shipwreck and Lifesaving in European Societies since 1800, SH6
  • ERC Advanced Grant:
    • Kari Astala, Aalto University: Quasiconformal Methods in Analysis and Applications, PE1
    • Aristides Gionis, Aalto University: An algorithmic framework for reducing bias and polarization in online media, PE6
    • Zhipei Sun, Aalto University: Atomically-engineered nonlinear photonics with two-dimensional layered material superlattices, PE8
  • ERC Synergy Grant:
    • Otso Ovaskainen, University of Helsinki: A Planetary Inventory of Life – a New Synthesis Built on Big Data Combined with Novel Statistical Methods
    • Ovaskainen will be collaborating with Tomas Roslin of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and David Dunson of Duke University.


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