The first batch of projects to be included in the funding programmes of the Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland has now been selected. The programmes will involve 16 extensive consortium projects composed of a total of 116 research teams. About half of the researchers in these teams are based at universities and one in three at research institutes. Nearly all consortia intend to collaborate with business companies. The total funding budget for the years 2015–2017 is 52.5 million euros.
The 16 consortia for the first strategic research programmes were selected by the SRC on 14 September 2015. Of the researchers in the 116 teams (see list of funded projects), 58 per cent are based at universities and 37 per cent at research institutes. The teams also include people working at polytechnics and other organisations. The SRC’s first funding call attracted a total of 130 applications, including almost 800 research teams applying for a total sum of more than 410 million euros.
In the first review round, applications were reviewed in programme-specific panels that assessed the projects for their societal relevance and impact, quality of interaction and programme compatibility. The panels, which convened in May 2015, consisted of both Finnish and foreign experts with extensive experience not only in science and research funding but also in evidence-based management and policy.
In June 2015, based on the results of the relevance review, the SRC decided to select 56 applications to the second stage and the scientific review. Keeping to the Academy of Finland’s review practices, the scientific panels consisted of foreign experts. Because of the nature of the projects, the reviewers were chosen based on their experience of working in multidisciplinary review panels (see list of all panel members).
High quality and multidisciplinarity
The scientific review showed that the applicants and the applications were of a very high standard. The SRC based its decisions on an overall assessment considering both the panel reports and the objectives and needs of the funding programmes.
The projects were selected so as to make the programmes sufficiently versatile. In practice, this meant that the SRC could not pick out more than one consortium in the same topic. Forest research and services for children and young people, for instance, were two themes where there were more high-quality applications than could be funded.
In accordance with the objectives set for the funding instrument for strategic research, the SRC put emphasis on the research-related added value generated by the consortia. This premise was echoed in statements and feedback received from reviewers. Therefore, the SRC turned down consortia that had not justified their work distribution or that had, in effect, inappropriately built their plans around researchers from a single university or research institute.
The panels appreciated the overall review process as such, but many reviewers found it a fairly taxing task to process the applications and the appendices – for applicants, too. The review of the societal impact contained in the projects focused mainly on the interaction plans. The plans were drafted in many different ways, but the most successful ones included truly interactive approaches, a focus on stakeholder collaboration, and a high level of innovation and concreteness. An effective interaction can significantly increase a project’s social impact. As for the proposed research plans, the reviewers suggested that applicants in future focus especially on the concrete descriptions of their methods and the research design.
Funding amounts to be decided in October
The SRC made the funding decisions unanimously. In accordance with the Academy of Finland’s established practices and the Finnish Administrative Procedure Act, special attention was paid to grounds for disqualification pertaining to council members. The per-project funding amounts will be decided in October. Before the decisions are made, the SRC will negotiate with consortium representatives on the objectives for the planned research and interaction. The exact funding instalments for the consortia will be determined after this negotiation stage.
The preparations for the next round of SRC calls will start after the Finnish Government has settled on the strategic research themes for 2016. It is also possible that the current funding programmes will be supplemented with additional calls at a later stage. Based on the feedback received in connection with the first call, the SRC plans to simplify and streamline the processing of applications for any upcoming calls.
- Research Director Per Mickwitz, Chair of the SRC, tel. +358 400 148 847
- list of funded projects
- list of all panel members
Information on SRC Programmes:
- Disruptive Technologies and Changing Institutions: Science Adviser Jyrki Hakapää, tel. +358 295 335 020
- A Climate-Neutral and Resource-Scarce Finland: Science Adviser Laura Kitti, tel. +358 295 335 152
- Equality in Society: Science Adviser Jussi Vauhkonen, tel. +358 295 335 153 (until 2 Oct), and Science Adviser Jyrki Hakapää, tel. +358 295 335 020