Government approved resolution on comprehensive reform of research institutes

Government Communications Department 5.9.2013 11.21
Press release 362/2013

Revised press release 5.9.2013, 15:53

Revision in the second paragraph under Structural reforms

At a plenary session held today, 5 September, the Government approved a resolution on the overall reform of research institutes and research funding. The Government resolution is based on the policy agreed by the cabinet evening session of 10 October 2012. In line with the Government Programme, national sectoral research institutes will be combined into larger entities.

- We will only be able to say that we live in an information society when we make systematic use of information, and information that has been well-researched, in decision-making. The decision now made represents a major step, for Finland, towards becoming a genuine information society. The proposed sectoral research system will anticipate society's changing information needs. It must be capable of flexibly shifting research focuses and generating information needed by decision-makers in both the public and private sectors. The goal is for research to function as a strategic resource for decision-making and societal development, says Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.

The approved resolution specifies three packages of measures for the reform of research institutes and research funding and identifies the ministry responsible in each case. These three sets of measures comprise structural reforms, research funding reforms, and the implementation and follow-up of the reforms. The overall reform will be implemented in 2014–2017.

Structural reforms

The objective of the overall reform is to strengthen multidisciplinary, high-level research of social significance. It will also seek to free up resources from research support services and fixed structures for redeployment in research activity and, by field of research, to organise research institutes into larger and stronger wholes. The aim of this is stronger multidisciplinary research organisations, capable of competing with other European research institutes for funding, and greater cooperation between research institutes and universities.

Through the reform, Agrifood Research Finland, the Finnish Forest Research Institute and the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute will be merged to form the natural resources institute Finland. The Finnish Geodetic Institute; issues related to the Inspire project and the development and promotion of joint use of geographic information under the National Land Survey of Finland; and the sector-dependent information systems of the Information Centre of the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, along with the related system development, will be merged to form a research and development centre for geographic information. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland the Centre for Metrology and Accreditation will be merged to form a multitechnological research and development centre; preparations will be launched to turn the new centre into a profit-based, fully state-owned company with a special assignment. In 2015, the National Consumer Research Centre and the National Research Institute for Legal Policy will be merged with the University of Helsinki to form institutes or units based on national special assignments.

In addition to the structural reform of research institutes, deeper, network-based collaboration will be required, crossing the boundaries of government agencies and public bodies. The activities begun under the framework of the Finnish Natural Resource and Environmental Research Consortium (LYNET) and the Consortium of Expert Institutions on Health and Welfare (SOTERKO) will be developed and expanded in order to improve the quality, productivity and impact of research and consultancy.

The activities of the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health will be assessed by 30 June 2014. This will include an evaluation of the suitability and compatibility of the institutes' strategic research areas, and of their key development and administrative tasks, taking account of feed-in requirements related to decision-making and steering within government. In addition, thought will be given to the possible elimination of overlapping functions and the appropriate division of labour and research tasks between universities and research institutes.

During this evaluation, development proposals will be formulated related to the institutes' strategic management and their research, development and administrative tasks, and on which research functions should be transferred to the universities.

Research funding reforms

Through the overall reform, research and analysis work in support of decision-making by the government and its ministries will be strengthened by gathering together research funding for deployment in line with government policy. For this purpose, among other initiatives a strategic research funding instrument will be established. Research funding subject to competition, and disbursed in support of social policy and society's functions and services, will be assembled under this instrument in order to make 70 million euros available for strategic research funding in 2017. Such funding will be assembled in stages between 2015–2017, from the state research institutes’ research appropriations, from the Academy of Finland’s programme-based research funding and from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes’ innovation and research funding.

This funding will be allocated to research aimed at finding solutions to the major challenges facing Finnish society and promoting imperatives such as the renewal of the country's economic base, the improvement of its competitiveness, the development of working life and the enhancement of the public sector. This will enable research to be focused on blind spots and sub-areas not currently covered by research institute activities.

Research and analysis activities supporting societal decision-making by the Government will also be strengthened, by accumulating funding in stages from state research institutes' budget-funded research appropriations and placing it at the disposal of the government and its ministries. This will be accomplished between 2014–2016, making available EUR 5 million in 2014, EUR 7.5 million in 2015, and EUR 12.5 million in 2016 in non-earmarked funds, for research, assessment and analysis activities meeting the immediate information needs of the Government and its ministries.

To be placed at the general disposal of the Government, such funds will be allocated to common and horizontal projects and research and analysis projects supporting decision-making within the ministries’ administrative branches. Projects will be designed and coordinated through a plan for research in support of Government decision-making. A joint-research commissioning group, under the leadership of the Prime Minister's Office and whose membership will include experts from all administrative branches, will be in charge of preparing this plan. The plan will be confirmed at a government plenary session.

Effects on employees

The staffing impact of the reforms will depend on the cost and staff structure of each research institute, their balance of research and administrative tasks and the strategic orientation of the research institute in question.

Implementation of the resolution

The resolution was prepared within the Prime Minister's Office and preparations were directed by a
ministerial working group. The Prime Minister's Office will establish a ministerial working group to monitor the resolution's implementation.

Inquiries: Olli-Pekka Heinonen, State Secretary, tel. +358 295 160 280, Prime Minister’s Office