The Academy of Finland has granted a continued funding of over 9 million euros to the Inequalities, Interventions and New Welfare State Flagship INVEST. The funding period extends until 2026. The international review panel which completed a mid-term review of the Flagship found its activities excellent and very successful while also considering its plans for the future promising.
– The decision on continued funding shows that we have been successful in our work. INVEST is an exception among the Flagships, as it is the only Flagship that is not strongly from the technological or medical field. Now, it was evaluated as a high-quality research cluster and received the funding it deserves, says Vice Rector responsible for research at the University of Turku Kalle-Antti Suominen.
According to Director of INVEST Jani Erola, the Flagship proceeds to the continuation term with a positive attitude. Already when writing the mid-term report, the researchers noticed that the objectives that had been set very high were even exceeded. Based on the statement of the international review panel, the Flagship was now granted over 9 million euros in continued funding, 4.4 million of which will be directed to the University of Turku at the first stage of the funding, and close to 800,000€ to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
A joint initiative of the University of Turku and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the research flagship and joint research centre INVEST aims at providing a new model of Finnish welfare state that is more equal, better targeted to problem groups, more anticipatory as well as economically and socially sustainable.
– Already on the first term, it has been evident that there is an immense demand for the information we collect, acquire, and analyse. The strength of the Finnish society is that decision-makers are easy to reach; we have direct connections to them, says Erola.
The knowledge and policy recommendations based on scientific research have been offered especially for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Ministry of Education and Culture. The municipalities’ collaboration needs are so high that INVEST has been forced to choose which projects it is able to collaborate with.
– The demand is very high. We are doing what we can. All of our operations are guided by scientifically relevant, high-level basic research.
The second funding term allows the Flagship to hire new researchers, but also enables other new initiatives.
– We are building a novel science advisory unit SciAdHub built on the foundation of the science advisory activities already in place at THL. The science advisory unit of THL has mainly co-operated with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, but we will now extend it to also cover other administrative sectors. Another new initiative is the INventure impact infrastructure, which supports commercial initiatives. The KiVa antibullying program and the Strongest Families intervention programme are already significant commercial operations. These programmes are also meant to be broadened. As our third new initiative, we are building a digital co-creation platform, InNEXT, which empowers the targets of our research – children, adolescents, and families with children – to impact the important themes related to them, explains Erola.
The research activities will continue from the progress made during the first term. Interventions have an important role: developing, implementing, and evaluating novel and existing interventions is in a key role in the work.
Flagship Funding Covers a Fifth of the External Funding
Over the last year, the activities of INVEST were re-organised to lay a more stable foundation as a joint research centre crossing the boundaries between two organisations, the University of Turku and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
INVEST operates under the Faculties of Medicine and Social Sciences of the University of Turku as well as in the Welfare State Research and Reform Unit of the THL.
The Flagship funding granted by the Academy of Finland to INVEST for the two terms is altogether 17.26 million euros. It is already fairly certain that the activities will continue even when the Flagship term of the Academy of Finland ends in 2026.
– The decision on the continued funding was also significantly impacted by the fact that we have also been able to very successfully acquire other external funding. This is demonstrated by e.g. the two new ERC Advanced Grants and three new consortia funded by the Strategic Research Council and led by our researchers. At the moment, the Flagship funding covers a fifth of our external funding, and part of the funding already extends further than the Flagship term, says Erola.
All Six First Flagships Received Continued Funding
The Academy of Finland granted continued funding to all six competence clusters included in the first Flagship Programme. The continued funding was decided in connection with a mid-term review, which assessed the progress of the Flagships selected in the first and second calls of the programme and their plans for the coming years.
The review was carried out by an international panel, which also interviewed Flagship representatives. The review material included the original application, a report on the past two years, a stakeholder survey and the new application focusing on the plans for the coming years.
The Finnish Flagships represent an effective mix of close cooperation with business and society, adaptability and a strong commitment from host organisations. The Flagships create future know-how and sustainable solutions to societal challenges and promote economic growth by, for example, developing new business opportunities.
The Academy of Finland’s total funding contribution to the programme comes to more than 100 million euros. The Programme includes ten competence clusters. The first six clusters received funding in 2019, and all of them will continue their activities with the continued funding until 2026. Four Flagship Programmes, which also include the InFLAMES Flagship led by the University of Turku, received funding in 2020.
– The University of Turku has a strong responsibility in leading two Flagship Programmes, INVEST and InFLAMES. These Flagships have a central role in the University’s research profile, says Suominen.