The Academy of Finland's Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering has announced the recipients of the prestigious Academy Research Fellowship funding. A total of 59 researchers have been selected to receive funding, amounting to approximately 35 million euros. The success rate for applicants was just over 15 percent.
The Academy Research Fellowship funding is specifically designed for early-career researchers who have demonstrated a fast career trajectory, established international networks, and are engaged in scientifically rigorous and impactful research that contributes to scientific advancement.
This funding round marks the first application cycle under the Academy's reformed funding schemes for early-career researchers. The total amount requested by applicants for Academy Research Fellowships in the natural sciences and engineering was nearly 220 million euros.
The allocated funding is administered by the researchers' respective organizations, which manage its use according to the specific research needs. The flexibility of the funding allows for various applications, such as supporting the researcher's salary, hiring a research team, and covering other research-related expenses. The funding period spans four years, and on average, a single Academy Research Fellowship amounts to approximately 590,000 euros. The Academy of Finland closely monitors the impact of research funded through its programs.
The Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering encompasses a wide range of disciplines within its domain. Finnish research environments have gained international recognition, particularly in information and communications technology (ICT) and engineering fields. Notably, 70 percent of the applications for Academy Research Fellowships in these areas came from foreign applicants. Health technology emerged as a prominent research topic within the field of engineering, while fundamental research projects received funding in the natural sciences. Furthermore, the Research Council allocated funding to projects focusing on future energy solutions.
Professor Leena Ukkonen, Chair of the Research Council, expressed concern regarding the low number of applications in process, environmental, chemical, and mechanical engineering, as well as manufacturing technology. These sectors are crucial to the Finnish economy, and the Research Council aims to ensure an adequate supply of expertise in these fields.
"Initially, we were also concerned about the prospects of younger applicants in the competition. However, they performed exceptionally well in the international peer review process, and the selected recipients represent researchers at various stages of their careers, ranging from recent PhD graduates to assistant/associate professors. Almost all of them have already demonstrated a solid track record of international or intersectoral mobility and established excellent collaborative networks," said Ukkonen.
The applications underwent a rigorous peer-review process by panels of international experts. Notably, 46 percent of the applications received an excellent rating (6 or 5) from the reviewers. The selections were based on the applicants' personal competence, taking into account their career stages. The scientific quality of the proposed research also played a significant role in the decision-making process.
Ukkonen further highlighted, "Compared to previous years, the Research Council was able to fund talented researchers with ambitious research projects from a wider range of disciplines in this funding round."
The Academy of Finland's support for early-career researchers through the Academy Research Fellowship program will undoubtedly contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge and foster innovation in the natural sciences and engineering fields.