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High stakes, great expectations

A glimpse at the Foundation’s strategic goals

The year 2023 marked the end of the Foundation’s three-year strategy period, during which total grants increased to €123 million, a rise of almost 16% compared to the previous three-year period. The grants awarded enable a total of 396 years of high-calibre research.

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From the very outset, the Foundation’s guiding principle has been to enable long-term work, a principle which was also reflected in the exceptional years of the coronavirus pandemic which occurred during the strategy period. The Foundation supported project actors by flexibly enabling changes and schedule extensions to multi-year projects.

One of the goals of the period was to further strengthen the Foundation’s grant activities in the field of technology alongside the already strong field of medicine. The share of technology and science supporting technology increased by 29% compared to the previous three-year period. A survey conducted by the Association of Finnish Foundations shows that the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation accounts for approximately one third of foundation funding for technology research in Finland in 2022.

Focus on revitalising science and art and strenghtening riks-bearing capacity

“We have top researchers and artists in Finland, but we need to ensure there is enough strong talent in Finland also going forward. This is one of the key goals of our next strategy period 2024–26,” says Hanna-Mari Peltomäki, the Foundation’s Secretary General.

Although the Foundation has long focused its grant activities on actors with a proven track record, young researchers, such as those who are just forming their own research group, should also take a look at the Foundation. Accelerating the careers of young group leaders and mid-stage researchers will be a particular focus in the coming years.

“Applicants are expected to be realistic regarding the objectives of their application. In other words, the larger and longer multi-year grant applied for, the more convincing the evidence already needs to be,” Peltomäki points out.

“Grant decisions are always based on peer review. A good researcher can build a realistic plan based on their own experience and skills.”

The Foundation’s culture of awarding grants is very different from that of other large foundations. For example, it does not award any personal grants, whereas multi-disciplinary and consortium projects are very welcome. The emphasis is on a high-risk, high-reward approach. Projects that have made good progress can also apply for a follow-up grant.

On the arts and culture side, the focus is on the arts and regeneration of the field, not just those that maintain structures. Increasing cultural capital, for example by enabling top international visits, has been one of the Foundation’s guiding principles. However, there is a growing recognition of the need to enable the testing and promotion of trends and forms of cooperation that are important over time.   

”We need to ensure there is enough strong talent in Finland also going forward.”

Hanna-Mari Peltomäki

No themes or application periods

The current three-year period has no separate themes or programme calls.

“Rather than building grants around themes, we want to keep our hands as free as possible. Interesting ideas from credible talents related to the fields supported by the Foundation are always welcome.”

Nor does the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation have any application periods, and applications can be submitted at any time.

When evaluating grants, the key criteria are the applicant’s proven ability to implement the project, the boldness, significance and impact of the goal setting on its field and, of course, the realism and quality of the implementation plan. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees takes the final decisions on the basis of the recommendations of expert groups. There are four decision-making meetings a year.

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