Centres of Excellence 2022–2029
The Research Council of Finland has selected eleven Centres of Excellence (CoE) for the period 2022‒2029. The new Finnish Centre of Excellence Programme includes research teams from eleven universities or research institutes.
High-Speed Electromechanical Energy Conversion Systems
Belahcen Anouar (Aalto University, AU); Pippuri-Mäkeläinen Jenni (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd); Pyrhönen Juha (LUT University); Rasilo Paavo (Tampere University); Råback Peter (CSC – IT Center for Science) and Tammi Kari (AU)
The world is being electrified at unparalleled pace, from transport to industrial processes and complete energy systems. As a result, there is an incomparable need for energy, material and cost-efficient electrical machines, drives and powertrains.
The Research Council of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in High-Speed Electromechanical Energy Conversion Systems (HiECSs) brings together the key Finnish academic experts in this area. The CoE’s approach is to capitalise on the high-frequency solutions currently not fully explored. The aim is to elevate the modelling and analysis capabilities and methodologies eventually leading to the emergence of highly sustainable electrical machines, drives, mechanical transmission and related systems necessary for a cleaner future.
Helariutta Yrjö (University of Helsinki, UH); Kangasjärvi Jaakko (UH) and Mähönen Ari Pekka (UH)
The Centre of Excellence in Tree Biology will study how genes control the carbon sink effect of trees. Forest trees have a key role as sinks for the atmospheric greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). Trees take up the CO2 through narrow openings in their leaves (called stomata). After fixing the CO2 in their green chloroplasts to form carbohydrates (or sugars), these compounds are then transported through a conductive tissue (phloem) to the trunk of the tree where they provide building blocks for the plant biomass. A specific stem cell system (cambium) orchestrates the underlying radial growth.
The researchers will first dissect the process in the source (leaf), transport (phloem) and sink (cambium) segments. Finally, they will integrate this information at a whole tree level by combining various disciplines of plant science to analyse how forest tree individuals vary in their capacity to fix CO2. The researchers will also use the information to breed trees that act as more efficient carbon sinks.
Biological Barrier Mechanics and Disease: From molecular-scale to tissue-level understanding of signal integration and forces
Ivaska Johanna (University of Turku, UT); Lappalainen Pekka (University of Helsinki, UH); Saharinen Pipsa (UH); Vattulainen Ilpo (UH) and Wickström Sara (UH)
From time to time, all people suffer from some sort of infection or inflammation induced by the same cause: the impaired function of biological barriers that protect the body and organ functions. In severe cases, failure of these barriers can lead to cancer or organ failure. Understanding how biological barriers function is without a doubt one of the cornerstones of health, but nonetheless our understanding of these mechanisms is still in its infancy.
The goal of the Centre of Excellence in Biological Barrier Mechanics and Disease is to uncover how biological barriers are controlled at the level of molecules, cells and tissues. Based on this knowledge, the research will also elucidate how malfunctions of biological barriers lead to diseases, and how these diseases could be treated.
Tax Systems Research
Kotakorpi Kaisa (Tampere University, TU); Harju Jarkko (TU); Kosonen Tuomas (VATT Institute for Economic Research) and Pirttilä Jukka (University of Helsinki)
Because modern welfare states collect a very large share of national product as tax revenues, tax systems have a crucial role for economic performance. Taxation is also needed to solve environmental and health problems and to alleviate inequalities.
The Centre of Excellence in Tax Systems Research studies all these features of the tax system using versatile methods in economics: statistical analyses with large administrative datasets and complementary survey data, randomised experiments and new theoretical modelling. The research challenges many earlier findings on the impact of taxation on firm and individual behaviour, leading to fundamentally influential policy recommendations on the design of a good tax system. The research in the CoE is a joint effort between Finnish institutions conducting high-quality tax research as well as international top researchers in the field.
Lappi Tuomas (University of Jyväskylä, UJ); Eskola Kari (UJ); Kim Dong (UJ); Paukkunen Hannu Tuomas (UJ) and Räsänen Sami (UJ)
The Centre of Excellence in Quark Matter studies the strong interaction between the fundamental constituents of ordinary matter, quarks and gluons. This interaction is described by the theory of quantum chromodynamics, QCD. The goal of the CoE is to understand how these degrees of freedom become visible in high-energy collider experiments. In particular, the CoE addresses the question of how and when matter turns into a new state of deconfined quark matter, quark-gluon plasma.
The CoE consists of three theoretical and two experimental research teams. The research of the theory teams is relevant for understanding measurements at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and also at the world’s most powerful microscope, the future Electron-Ion Collider EIC, which will soon begin construction in the US. The experimental teams are part of the ALICE collaboration, which operates one of the major LHC detectors, specialising in studying the properties of the quark-gluon plasma.
Learning Dynamics and Intervention Research
Leppänen Paavo (University of Jyväskylä, UJ); Aro Mikko (UJ) and Korja Riikka (University of Turku)
Learning problems (LPs) do not develop in isolation, but as a result of various interrelated factors. These factors play a crucial role in why some individuals manage and some do not with the increasing demands of a rapidly changing society. LPs have prevalence rates of approximately 10–20 per cent, and they have a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life. They also place a great economic burden on education, health and social care.
The Centre of Excellence in Learning Dynamics and Intervention Research includes experts from diverse fields of research, applying an integrative multilevel person-oriented approach to create knowledge of neurobiological, cognitive, socio-emotional, motivational and environmental underpinnings of LPs. The results of the research will translate into a more comprehensive understanding of protective and risk factors for learning and wellbeing, and more efficient means of support in various contexts of learning.
Life-Inspired Hybrid Materials
Linder, Markus (Aalto University, AU); Ikkala Olli (AU); Kostiainen Mauri (AU); Penttilä Merja (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd); Priimägi Arri (Tampere University); Ras Robin (AU); Sammalkorpi Maria (AU) and Timonen Jaakko (AU)
The way we make and use materials affects virtually all aspects of our society. It has already been anticipated that future materials production will be influenced by biology in several ways. Biologically derived raw materials offer a way of making products in a more sustainable way; we can also draw inspiration from biology for new ways to achieve properties in materials.
The Centre of Excellence in Life-Inspired Hybrid Materials will combine research groups with backgrounds in bioscience, physics, chemistry and computational modelling to be able to tackle problems that will advance hybrid materials. In particular, the researchers will take inspiration from lifelike properties such as how structures form, how cells grow and adapt, and how signals are transmitted and stored. This will allow the CoE’s researchers to give materials new interactive properties and find new ways to make materials in general.
Randomness and Structures
Saksman Eero (University of Helsinki, UH); Hytönen Tuomas (UH); Ilmonen Pauliina (Aalto University, AU); Koskela Pekka (University of Jyväskylä, UJ); Kuusi Tuomo (UH); Kytölä Kalle (AU); Lukkarinen Jani (UH); Matomäki Kaisa (University of Turku); Peltola Eveliina (UJ); Vihola Matti (UJ) and Zhong Xiao (UH)
An essential part of research into randomness and structures is applications of cutting-edge mathematics in physical sciences as well as statistics. Particular goals include mathematical modelling of rock structures in view of applications to geothermal energy and improvement of the predictive accuracy of coagulation-fragmentation models in pioneering work on atmospheric mathematics.
The Centre of Excellence in Randomness and Structures brings together leading mathematicians in Finland, including a new generation of world-class experts, to collaborate towards the advancement of the common research themes of randomness and structures. The CoE aims at mathematical development at the crossroads between probabilistic methods, quantum and conformal field theory, geometric and harmonic analysis, partial differential equations and analytic number theory.
Music, Mind, Body and Brain
Toiviainen Petri (University of Jyväskylä, UJ); Huotilainen Minna (University of Helsinki, UH) and Särkämö Teppo (UH)
The Centre of Excellence in Music, Mind, Body and Brain studies music as a multimodal human experience and as a versatile engine of change, throughout the life span and in health and disease. The research of the CoE is multidisciplinary and empirical, merging both basic and applied research perspectives. The research is a combination of cognitive musicology, psychology, education, therapy, computer science and cognitive neuroscience.
The researchers will determine how the cognitive, emotional, embodied and interactional experience of music and the brain mechanisms underlying it change over the course of human life and in different disorders. They will also determine how music-based interventions can be optimised to enhance learning and emotional, cognitive, motor and social wellbeing in educational, everyday and rehabilitation settings. Another aim is to explore what individual, contextual, psychological and neural mechanisms explain the efficacy of music.
Virtual Laboratory for Molecular-Level Atmospheric Transformations
Vehkamäki Hanna (University of Helsinki, UH); Eskola Arkke Johannes (UH); Kangasluoma Juha (UH); Kurten Theo (UH); Lehtinen Kari (University of Eastern Finland, UEF); Puolamäki Kai (UH); Rinke Patrick (Aalto University); Rissanen Matti (Tampere University); Schobesberger Siegfried (UEF) and Sipilä Mikko (UH)
Understanding the formation of atmospheric aerosol is vital, as they help to cool the climate but also cause increased mortality through bad air quality. A key problem in predicting aerosol formation is the huge number of compounds, reactions and processes involved, as well as the complexity of the participating compounds.
The Virtual Laboratory for Molecular-Level Atmospheric Transformations is a Centre of Excellence that will combine atmospheric and computer science to construct a virtual laboratory for atmospheric aerosol formation, interactively integrating experimental and theoretical state-of-the art methods from the fields of chemistry, physics and artificial intelligence. This will allow the researchers to tackle many unsolved problems in atmospheric science, for example the reactions responsible for the formation and growth of organic nanoparticles. Outreach-tailored versions of the virtual laboratory will also provide schoolchildren and the general public with insights not only into atmospheric science, but also into the scientific process more generally.
Multidisciplinary Antimicrobial Resistance Research
Virta Marko (University of Helsinki, UH); Hiltunen Teppo (University of Turku); Kantele Anu (UH); Mustonen Ville (UH) and Sariola Salla (UH)
Because the rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem, fighting it effectively requires a broad, multidisciplinary approach. The development and global spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria has become a severe threat to both public and animal health. Antimicrobial resistance jeopardises our ability to treat bacterial infections, cure cancer and perform advanced surgery.
The Multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence in Antimicrobial Resistance Research will take a comprehensive approach to understanding the big picture of antimicrobial resistance from a “One Health” perspective that incorporates humans, animals and the environment.