The Finnish Research Impact Foundation was created by the Finnish Government on 7 March 2019 in response to the need to stimulate cooperation between academic research and industry. The Foundation’s mission is to support closer connections between leading-edge research and business and industry in Finland and to provide a platform for the development of Finnish know-how and renewal in the long term.
The Foundation’s first full year of operations in 2020 was one full of activity – despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. FRIF’s first networking event and the launch of its first funding call were scheduled for 13 March 2020, two days after the World Health Organization WHO declared the coronavirus as a pandemic. This marked the beginning of working from home, and the launch of the funding call was turned into a virtual event at the last minute.
FRIF has addressed the challenge of deepening academia–industry collaboration by developing a novel funding model. The first Tandem Industry Academia funding call met with an extremely popular response: we received 92 joint applications from research organizations and business companies. Once the high-level applications had been reviewed by outside experts, FRIF’s Board of Directors decided in August to award a total of 2 million euros in funding to 11 projects. A new chapter had been opened in the field of research funding.
In the autumn, FRIF hosted a virtual reception for our first grant recipients. We heard enthusiastic greetings from 11 top researchers about the challenges they were planning to tackle. The projects funded are concerned with burning social issues from the reduction of CO2 emissions to the development of quantum computers and more accurate methods for testing cancer drugs. They all contribute to strengthen academia–industry cooperation as postdoc researchers move between the research organization and business company. Ideally both parties make a unique contribution towards the common goal.
We expect that through the projects funded, we will be able to generate direct impacts and achieve an indirect social impact in the longer term. Furthermore, we are keen to learn more about how the impact of research can be enhanced: to undertake new experiments and to pilot new models for funding. We will continue to pursue our efforts in line with the Foundation’s recently updated strategy.
In late 2020 we also opened a second funding call to find a research team that would investigate and assess FRIF’s own funding model and to develop indicators and methods of impact assessment. We are very much looking forward to the results of this project which we expect will benefit the field of science and research funding more widely.
In 2021 we will be moving into the post-Covid era. The past year of the coronavirus has certainly brought home the pivotal role that science plays in resolving the challenges faced by humankind and in supporting decision-makers. The need for closer collaboration between academic research and industry is only set to increase in the future. The Finnish Research Impact Foundation is keen to be involved in supporting this collaboration.
Petro Poutanen, CEO of the Finnish Research Impact Foundation