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EU funding is researchers’ avenue to European collaboration

Published on 20.9.2023
Tampere University
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Photograph: Jonne Renvall/Tampere University
Tampere University succeeded in a recent European Union research funding call. The Horizon Europe programme granted €17 million to fund new research projects that are starting at the University’s faculties. EU funding is an excellent route for networking and participating in European research cooperation.

In summer 2023, the Horizon Europe programme granted funding to 24 research projects at Tampere University. In six of them, Tampere University is coordinating a consortium consisting of several partners and research projects. The Erasmus+ programme also granted funding for six projects, three of which are coordinated by the University.

The total sum Tampere University received is about EUR 17 million.

Vice President for Research Tapio Visakorpi is very satisfied with this result and points out that increasing EU research funding has been the University’s strategic goal since the merger in 2019.

“EU is the second largest research funder after the Research Council of Finland granting competed funding to Tampere University’s researchers. What is positive is that all our faculties got funding, meaning that and all our faculties have been active,” Visakorpi says.

Visakorpi thanks Research and Innovation Services and the pre-award team for their hard work.

Projects are unveiled after all the agreements needed for the launch have been concluded between the University, European Commission, and the research partners. The highly competitive EU funding received by all seven faculties will strengthen research on technology, health, and society at Tampere University in the coming years. First-time applicants also succeeded and some of them act as coordinators.

ERC funding is granted to researchers directly

Horizon Europe emphasises research networks. Visakorpi says it is almost impossible to get funding with just domestic partners.

Another European funding source is the ERC funding granted by the European Research Council, a type of funding Visakorpi finds should increase at Tampere University. In addition, the Innovative Europe theme of Horizon’s Pillar III is also creating opportunities.

Visakorpi says the competition for funding is stiff because even an application with very positive panel reviews and excellent scores may not be funded. He still recommends applying because that will also help getting acquainted with other European researchers. 

“When we want to increase EU funding at Tampere University, we need to get more researchers to apply. Just apply. Applications will eventually succeed,” Visakorpi encourages.

Funding applications must be carefully thought out

The EU-funded ToBe consortium, which began last March, is developing policy practices and change indicators that foster sustainable well-being to inform policy making. Tampere University is leading the 14-partner consortium with participants from other European countries, Africa, and South America.

ToBe is directed and coordinated by Professor Liisa Häikiö, University Researcher Tuuli Hirvilammi, Researcher Alessia Greselin and Grant Writer Maria Salonen from Tampere University.

The funding was granted via a Horizon call organised in 2022. The consortium partners are universities, research institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Like Visakorpi, Häikiö would be happy to see more applications in the calls ERC organises for top-level researchers. According to her, Tampere University’s research environment already fulfils the prerequisites EU requires.

Häikiö is a member of a national academic team that influences the themes of EU applications in social sciences and humanities.

For Häikiö, EU funding has brought opportunities to widen the scope of research and enhance networking.

“You need to be able to interpret the application call text in relation to your own research. When applying, you must have a research idea that both fulfils the requirements of the funding call and advances your own research”, Häikiö says.

Even though the application has its own logic and has a very precise form, Häikiö does not find that applying for EU funding is in any way alien to the logic of scientific research. However, applicants really need to familiarise themselves with the criteria and thoroughly think about their application. 

For a person conducting research, application processes mean work, especially at the time of signing the agreements, which Häikiö would not expect of researchers. Häikiö appreciates the help received at the application phase, especially from Grant Writer Salonen, who coordinated the application and kept in touch with the consortium members. Without Research and Innovation Services, researchers’ working hours would not suffice.

Häikiö says that Pillar II makes you think about research in the European framework.

“I find it important that we have national funding instruments, but universities should get more core government funding so that all money is not competed. However, we should not just be satisfied with the national perspective but be active in the European research community. EU funding is one tool for making that happen,” Häikiö points out.

Research and Innovation Services support researchers by listening to them

Research and Innovation Services support researchers, among other things, in matters related to funding applications and project management. The key duties of the pre-award team are to support preparing EU applications, and supporting projects under Pillar II plays a big role. However, support is also available for researchers seeking funding elsewhere. The pre-award team is led by Research Funding Manager Tuukka Pöyry.

“We support researchers on a needs basis by listening to them. The work usually begins with finding appropriate funding calls. When a suitable call is found, we analyse the call text, help to develop the project idea and think about the composition of the consortium. If necessary, we can help to build a consortium because we also have extensive partner networks around Europe,” Pöyry says.

Once the decision has been made to apply for funding, the researcher can use our Grant Writer (GW) service.

"Together with the responsible director of the planned project, we agree about the division of labour with the researcher or research group and the GW. Our aim is to add value to the application by bringing in our expertise and experiences,” Pöyry adds.