Expert group proposes comprehensive reform of state research institutes and research funding

Ministry of Education and Culture 20.9.2012 11.41
News item

An expert group, appointed by the Research and Innovation Council, has put forward a proposal for a comprehensive overhaul of state research institutes and research funding as of 2014.

The structure of state research institutes is to be reformed by fusing research institutes into stronger units, in both operational and structural terms, with the aim of reinforcing the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of research conducted in such institutes. Certain research institutes are proposed to be merged with the University of Helsinki.

According to the proposal, research resources will be marshalled in order to increase their social effectiveness. Competed funding that supports social policy and society’s functions and services will be significantly expanded. A third pillar of funding subject to competition, a council for strategically targeted research, will be established alongside funding instruments for scientific research and innovation. The council will fund problem-oriented, long-term, programme-based research aimed at finding solutions to significant social challenges. Research and investigation activities supporting decision-making by the Government will be strengthened.

Cooperation between research institutes and universities will be intensified and developed, to shape universities and research institutes into clusters of research, innovation and higher education that are key actors in producing research that supports society. Research institutes and universities will have common research equipment, laboratories and information resources, engage in close cooperation in research and teaching, and within the proposed consortiums, form common regional campus areas.

The expert group was tasked with preparing a proposal for a comprehensive overhaul of the national research institute sector and a model to be employed in the structural reform of the sector, alongside strengthening the steering of research institutes, reforming their funding and improving the targeting of resources in accordance with society’s needs.

Reform of research funding in 2014-2016

A third pillar of funding subject to competition, a funding instrument for strategically targeted research, will be established alongside funding instruments for scientific research and innovation. This instrument will be used to fund problem-oriented research aimed at finding solutions to significant social challenges and problems. The Government will steer strategically targeted research by defining focus areas and themes. A strategic research council will be appointed and located within the Academy of Finland.

Research funding subject to competition, the supporting social policy and society’s functions and services will be marshalled under the strategic research funding instrument, so that in 2016 the funds available for strategic research funding will amount to EUR 200 million. Such funding will be collected in stages between 2014-2016, from the state research institutes’ research appropriations (EUR 120 million), from the Academy of Finland’s programme-based research funding (EUR 20 million) and from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes’ innovation and research funding (EUR 60 million).

Research and investigation activities supporting societal decision-making by the Government will be strengthened, by accumulating funding in stages from state research institutes between 2014-2016, in order to create EUR 30 million for the funding of non-earmarked research, answering the 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 projects, horizontal projects and research projects supporting decision-making within the ministries’ administrative branches. Research and investigation projects will be planned and coordinated through a Government plan for research that serves decision-making, to be confirmed by the Government.