Academy of Finland announces €7m in funding for high-level consortia researching critical materials

3 Nov 2021

The Academy of Finland has decided to fund six research consortia (in all 17 subprojects) and two individual projects under the Academy Programme Critical Materials in Circular Economy of Cities (Romulus). The Academy allocated a total of seven million euros to the consortia for the period 2022–2025. The projects will launch in January 2022.

The Romulus Academy Programme explores the occurrence and chemical composition and properties of critical metals, integrating this with research on the circular economy of cities. Most commonly, critical materials refer to metals and minerals which, for some reason, are not sufficiently available to meet the needs of industry. The programme examines processes, products and services that are based on sustainable development.

In its report, the review panel emphasised that the standard of applications was high and that, based on the applications, Finland has a large number of excellent researchers in critical materials research for such a small country. The reviewers considered it particularly encouraging to see early-career researchers among the applicants.

According to Professor Reko Leino, who chaired the subcommittee that decided on the funding, the Romulus Academy Programme is a very important research programme, taking into account the societal challenges of the circular economy of critical materials. There is also a great deal of high-quality research related to the topic in Finland.

Leino said: “In that sense, the lower than expected number of applications submitted in the first round of the call was perhaps a bit of a surprise. However, the standard of the funded projects was delightfully high. The selected projects provide an excellent coverage of the main themes of the Romulus Academy Programme. The steering group is eagerly awaiting the launch of the projects and later also information on the research results.”

Examples of funded projects:

Kati Miettunen (University of Turku) heads a consortium investigating the retrieval of critical materials from photovoltaic systems. The researchers aim to understand how materials selection affects the recycling of solar cells and develop solar-panel structures that allow commercially viable reuse or recycling. The overall goal of the multidisciplinary consortium is to design sustainable solar-energy technology.

Elina Huttunen-Saarivirta (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd) heads a consortium that will bring new perspectives to the circular economy of raw materials critical for electric mobility. The consortium projects will focus on batteries, battery materials, electronic components and high-performance magnets as well as on system-level analysis at national and city level. The project is a joint, multidisciplinary effort between VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, the University of Eastern Finland, Aalto University and the University of Oulu.

Pekka Valkama (University of Vaasa) heads a consortium studying the preconditions of cities for transitioning towards an integrated circular economy. The researchers will study Finnish cities and waste management enterprises by collecting and analysing public documents, expert interviews and financial and other data. The project will also examine study objects in Norway, Scotland, the Netherlands and Japan. The project’s results can be used by city governments and other stakeholders when creating private and public value in the recycling, reuse and other processes of the circular economy.

In 2021, the Academy of Finland funds 13 Academy Programmes. Academy Programmes are science-driven, thematic and target-oriented bodies of research projects that are aimed at supporting scientific regeneration and increasing scientific and other impact. Academy Programmes support multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research of the highest quality, promote networking between researchers and provide platforms for international research cooperation.


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