The Academy of Finland grants competitive funding to Finnish universities to support them in strengthening their research profiles. The funding opportunity is often referred to as Profi. The aim of the funding is to support and speed up the strategic profiling of Finnish universities in order to improve the quality of research.
Evaluations of the instrument have shown that Profi funding has helped to strengthen selected components, reduce fragmentation within disciplines and promote multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary cooperation. The Academy develops the funding instrument in close cooperation with the universities. Particular attention has been paid to reducing the administrative burden required at the application stage and when the universities report on their activities.
A flexible funding scheme
In Profi calls, each university submits one application for funding. The funding is granted for a fixed term to finance the profiling areas selected by each university on the basis of its own strategy.
Universities may use the granted funding to finance more than one profiling area. Many universities continue to develop a selected profiling area with funding from successive Profi calls. This approach makes it possible to carry out development activities over a longer period of time. For example, the funding periods of Profi 1 and Profi 5 span from 2015 to 2023. On the other hand, many universities also propose entirely new profiling areas or form a new area that combines profiling areas that have been funded previously. In this case, funding can be used to advance important recruitments, for instance.
A profiling area is a research area or a thematic research module that a university intends to develop according to its strategy. It is a carefully chosen part of the research conducted at the university.
Profiling areas can be:
- existing high-quality research areas or thematic research modules
- emerging fields or thematic research modules with potential to reach a high level of research
- new fields or thematic research modules with a great deal of potential.
A profiling measure is an action that a university aims to carry out to develop a chosen profiling area. Universities may start several measures to advance the same area within a Profi call.
Profi funding is granted based on peer review. The applications are reviewed by an international panel of experts organised by the Academy of Finland. The panel members are rectors and vice rectors from European universities.
The review focuses on the following criteria:
- how the plan is linked to the university’s strategy and strategic development measures
- feasibility, credibility and follow-up of the proposed plan
- plans for reaching and maintaining the international level of the intended research in the profiling areas
- ensuring the creation of new, profiling-based initiatives and seeing to their resources
- the university’s overall commitment to profiling and developing the quality of research
- the significance and national added value of collaboration with other universities, research institutes and society at large (incl. infrastructure collaboration)
- the plan’s significance for promoting diverse societal impact.
The funding decisions are made by the Academy’s General Subcommittee. In addition to the panel review report, the funding decisions are based on the relationship between the funding applied for, the planned profiling measures and the universities’ research funding as a whole. We will also consider the universities’ interim and final reports on previously funded profiling measures.
We revised the Profi funding scheme and its application process in 2019 based on evaluations, feedback from universities and review panels and our general work to develop our funding calls. The aim was to keep the central characteristics of the funding opportunity while reducing the amount of time needed for application and administration.
- We moved from an annual call to a biennial call. This change enabled us to extend the funding period from four to six years.
- We simplified the structure of the application in many ways.
- Applicants were given an opportunity to comment on their review reports before decision-making.
The first revised call (Profi 6) was organised in May-June 2020.
Universities have used Profi funding primarily for tenure-track recruitment. In addition to salaries, the funding is used for materials, supplies and goods, instruments, services, travel and other costs. Profi funding is also used to finance research infrastructures not included on Finland’s national roadmap or the ESFRI roadmap, or research infrastructures not funded by the Finnish Research Infrastructure Committee.
- Impacts of the profiling funding on universities strategic planning and leadership. Evaluation report. Publications of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland 2018:27 (PDF)
- Funding to promote research profiling gives boost to universities’ strategic areas of expertise (press release 6 May 2020)
- Building world-class research competence at Finland’s universities (Academy of Finland news 23 Jan 2020)
- Riitta Maijala, Vice President for Research, tel. +358 295 335 002
- Anne Heinänen, Counsellor of Science, tel. +358 295 335 021
- Helena Vänskä, Senior Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 036
- Sanna Marjavaara, Senior Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 070
- Sirpa Nummila, Finance Manager (financial issues), tel. +358 295 335 081
- general inquiries: profi(at)aka.fi
Our email addresses are in the format firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi.