Base funding and centres of excellence

Base funding

Base funding means financing of R&D institutions for the purpose of attaining their strategic development objectives, including co-financing national and foreign projects and opening up new research directions and investing in the infrastructure. Base funding is provided to R&D institutions that have received a regular positive evaluation from the state budget via the budget of the Ministry of Education and Research.

Criteria of the base funding

95% of the funds allocated for that purpose in the state budget will be provided to applicants based on the results of their R&D activities carried out in the three years’ period prior to submitting the source data based on the following criteria:

  • the number of high-level publications in internationally recognised journals, the numbers of high-level level scientific monographs and their chapters as well as the number of patents and patent applications filed on behalf of R&D institutions (40%);
  • the amount of funding allocated for R&D (grants and contracts directly related to R&D activities; income from licencing and patents) based on financial reports (50%);
  • the institutions’ participation in PhD studies (10%).

5% of the amounts provided in the state budget for base funding are allocated for additional support to research of national importance.

Base funding encourages initiative and increases the accountability of R&D institutions in planning their activities It also enables R&D institutions better focus on their core activities and achieve better results. Base funding also helps to maintain financial stability and gives confidence to research institutions.

Centres of excellence in research

A centre of excellence consists of one or more internationally high-level research teams that have a clear set of common research objectives and work under the same management. A centre of excellence may be formed from the research teams of one or several R&D institutions (incl. researchers working in the private sector). The aim of centres of excellence is to support high-level research, thus creating preconditions for the improved cooperation and competitiveness of Estonian research in the European Research Area and to increase the participation and success of Estonia in the EU research framework programme Horizon 2020.
Support for centres of excellence with a view to strengthening the international competitiveness and highest possible quality of research (stairway to excellence), improving performance, ensuring future generations of researchers, intensifying national and international research cooperation between institutions and increasing the international impact of Estonian research.
Centres of excellence is supported by the European Regional Development Fund. The amount provided in the programme period 2014-2020 is about 41,2 million euros. The maximum amount of funding provided to a Project was 6 million euros with a minimum of self-financing requirement of 5%.

The activities to be funded under the measure include research and development directly related to a centre of excellence, the acquisition of  infrastructure and equipment, mobility of researchers, national and international cooperation relating to centres of excellence, the development and testing of innovative ideas, dissemination of information and popularisation of research findings.

Centres of excellence in research in 2008-2015:

Centres of excellence in research added in 2011-2015:


Centres of excellence in research in 2014-2020:

  • Ecology of global change: natural and managed ecosystems – Estonian University of Life Sciences, Head of the Centre Ülo Niinemets
  • Dark Side of the Universe - National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, Head of the Centre Martti Raidal
  • Emerging orders in quantum and nanomaterials - National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, Head of the Centre Urmas Nagel
  • Advanced materials and high-technology devices for energy recuperation systems - University of Tartu, Head of the Centre Enn Lust
  • Centre of Excellence for Genomics and Translational Medicine – University of Tartu, Head of the Centre Andres Metspalu
  • Centre of Excellence in Molecular Cell Engineering - University of Tartu, Head of the Centre Tanel Tenson
  • Center of Exellence in Estonian Studies – Estonian Literary Museum, Head of the Centre Mare Kõiva 
  • Zero energy and resource efficient smart buildings and districts - Tallinn University of Technology, Head of the Centre Jarek Kurnitski
  • EXCITE, Excellence in IT in Estonia - Tallinn University of Technology, Head of the Centre Maarja Kruusmaa


Last updated: 12 May 2017