Estonian scientists, scientific research establishments and higher education institutions will receive grants to a total value of 359 million euros in the new structural fund period. The objective of the grants is to increase the role of science in social and community life and to implement research results so as to improve the well-being of society more so than before. Within the next few days the Archimedes Foundation will announce the first two calls for proposals, valued at 170 million euros.
“The grants for the new period are first and foremost designed for substantive research work rather than buildings and equipment, as was the case in the last period,” explained Indrek Reimand, Deputy Secretary General for Higher Education and Research with the Ministry of Education and Research. “In the next few years we’ll be focussing on applied research and increasing the quality of research and education. Supporting future generations of scientists and developing cooperation in Estonia as well as internationally are essential.”
The wider objective of the grants for the new period (2014-2020) is increasing the socioeconomic impact of Estonian science. Implementing research results and knowledge in order to improve the well-being of society must become common practice. Many of the activities are therefore aimed at smart specialisation areas for growth in the economy. Smart specialisation is a pan-European initiative which aims to raise the level of innovation in business and improve cooperation between business and science.
In the new period, 75% of the structural funds grants for Estonian science and higher education will be aimed at substantive research activities and 25% will be aimed at improving infrastructure. In the last period (2007-2013), more than half of the grants (56%) were aimed at modernising infrastructure and purchasing equipment.
All of the measures and programmes are based on the objectives agreed on in the Estonian Strategy for Research and Development Activities and Innovation.
ASTRA and centre of excellence programmes to be launched first
The institutional development programme ASTRA for research and development and higher education institutions is the most comprehensive measure, valued at 129 million euros, including the contributions of applicants. State and public research and development institutions and institutions of professional higher educational – 24 in total – are able to apply for the grant.
The ASTRA programme will support structural reorganisation within institutions to reduce the duplication of studies and research; activities aimed at increasing quality and efficiency, such as the creation and development of joint curricula; activities aimed at doctoral students; activities aimed at increasing international competitiveness, such as involving foreign teaching staff and scientists; reinforcing cooperation between research institutions, higher education institutions and companies, such as enabling the joint use of infrastructure and the development and improvement of services in order to expand business cooperation; and purchasing and modernising the required infrastructure. The construction of buildings will only be supported in exceptional cases if substantive activities are related to such plans.
The volume of the programme for scientific centres of excellence amounts to 41 million euros, including the contributions of applicants. The objectives of the programme are reinforcing the international competitiveness and excellence of science, supporting future generations of scientists, developing scientific cooperation in Estonia and internationally and increasing the international impact of Estonian science. The principle of sectoral diversity will be used as the basis more so than before when supporting centres of excellence.
A centre of excellence is formed by research groups with internationally high standards. It may be formed on the basis of the research groups of one or several research and development institutions.
The Archimedes Foundation will announce calls for proposals of both programmes and provide applicants with detailed information.
Other calls for proposals in 2015
The grants to be allocated as part of the first two calls for proposal (ASTRA and centres of excellence) form over 40% of the resources of the structural funds planned for the entire period. Calls for proposals for several other measures will be held this year: supporting applied research in smart specialisation areas for growth; the internationalisation of science and higher education; supporting mobility and future generations; reinforcing the sectoral procurement of research and development activities; supporting scientific infrastructure of national importance; and the popularisation of science.