Finnish scientific agencies have launched a new funding scheme to attract (and integrate) top foreign researchers to its shores. The idea is to recruit high-level international researchers, who are committed to closely integrating themselves into the Finnish research community, for a fixed period, reports the National Technology Agency (Tekes).
Putting the ‘brain drain' into reverse gear, the funding programme will give Finnish universities and research institutes help in hiring top foreign scientists, or in luring Finnish scientists back home. Set up by the Academy of Finland and Tekes, it also aims to raise the level of scientific and technological know-how in Finland, in particular by boosting ‘internationalism' in the country's research system.
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According to Tekes, the funding programme is based on a government decision on how the public research system should develop structurally. The decision calls for public funding bodies to develop new strategies and funding instruments aimed specifically at enticing scientific expertise to Finland.
Working together on the scheme, the Academy will focus on basic research, science, and researcher training, while Tekes will concentrate on technological development and co-operation with business and industry. According to the Agency, researchers funded through the programme will be required to act as doctoral supervisors within the research training part of the scheme.
“We also expect the research theme to be relevant to the development of Finnish society and [our] national economy. In practice, this means that the subject should fall within the priority areas identified by Tekes in its strategy,” says Tekes Director-general Veli-Pekka Saarnivaara.
Key national – and European – importance
A call for proposals will be launched in December 2005. International experts will be appointed to evaluate the scientific qualifications of the top foreign researchers who will be put forward by universities and research institutes in Finland.
“One of the new aspects of this funding instrument is that it looks to universities and research institutes themselves to propose strategic areas where they have strong expertise and where it would be most useful to hire top international names,” says Academy President Raimo Väyrynen.
Doing it this way will help strengthen areas of science and technology (S&T) of key national importance, as identified by the people in the best position to do so – the universities and research centres. This, it is hoped, will also build longer-term international research co-operation.
The funds are for hiring researchers who will move to Finland and work as part of its research community, not for paying, say, visiting lecturers and researchers on secondment. “The idea is to make sure that top international researchers can be paid competitive salaries and that they have adequate research funding,” the Academy and Agency stress in a press statement.
Finland's innovative spirit has prompted several stories in Headlines. A recent OECD growth and productivity study points out Finland's effective innovation system and ICT base, and that Finns invest heavily in research and product development.
The country also has a strong and conducive research environment which, according to Väyrynen and Saarnivaara, makes Finland's research community an attractive option for world class foreign research talent.
Tekes notes on its website that it is constantly on the lookout for practical ways to increase the level of co-operation between the national R&D programmes in Europe which, it states, enhances the European Research Area.
“We are the focal point of several European networks and research activities and act as a guide along various paths of international co-operation where suitable Finnish counterparts may be found,” the site adds. Indeed, Tekes is involved in several European activities, such as ERA-Net (Coordination of research activities), IRCs (Innovation Relay Centres), the EUREKA network for market-oriented R&D, and the EU's Research Framework Programmes.
EU activities within the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) also focus on encouraging more researcher mobility and training which, in the long run, should make it easier and more appealing for scientists to work throughout the Union.
Tekes and EU sources