Research in 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic delayed research projects but the future of research looks bright

Tampere University and Tampere Universities respond to strategically selected global and local challenges through multi- and transdisciplinary research, development and innovation activities. Working in close collaboration, research in technology, health and society produce breakthroughs in science, business and society. Our inspirational research community is further strengthened by our active networks and collaborations and outstanding research environments. We promote responsible and open science.

As stated in the University’s strategy, confirmed in February 2020, we work with our partners to address climate change, preserve the natural environment and improve the well-being and sustainability of societies. In the next few years, our research development activities will focus on scientific quality and impact.

In line with our strategy, both the volume and use of competitive international research funding increased from the previous year in 2020. We received funding from all the Academy of Finland’s research councils, including the Strategic Research Council.  New grants were secured, among other things, for Covid-19 research and the development of research infrastructures. The quality of our scientific output increased, and a growing share of our publications were made openly accessible.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March hindered experimental activities in research laboratories for the rest of the year, and the recruitment of new researchers was delayed due to travel restrictions. In consequence, the use of competitive research funding declined as a whole from the previous year. Project deadlines were extended by many funding agencies.

In 2020, the Academy of Finland launched the third Finnish Flagship Programme. Tampere University participates in two new projects funded under the prestigious programme, the Atmosphere and Climate Competence Center (ACCC) and Forest-Human-Machine Interplay – Building Resilience, Redefining Value Networks and Enabling Meaningful Experiences (UNITE). The University coordinates the Finnish Flagship on Photonics Research and Innovation (PREIN), which was launched in 2019.

Finland’s national roadmap for research infrastructures was updated in 2020, and as a result Tampere University now coordinates two national research infrastructures and participates in eight.

As 2020 came to a close, the University had seven projects underway with funding from the European Research Council, coordinated three Centres of Excellence funded by the Academy of Finland, namely the Centre of Excellence in the History of Experiences, the Centre of Excellence in Body-on-Chip Research, and the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies, and was a partner in other three.

The Academy of Finland’s sixth PROFI call that closed at the end of 2020 resulted in Tampere University receiving €12.7 million for 2021 to 2026 to build a stronger research profile. This funding will be used to support four emerging fields identified in the University’s strategy: the future of well-being, sustainable cities, gamification and extended reality, and the revolution of light and image.

In 2020, the University geared up to utilise research platforms and the Tampere Institute for Advanced Study in the strategic steering of research. The related principles were confirmed in 2020, and the activities are due to be launched in 2021.

Although the Covid-19 crisis interrupted the progress made in internationalisation and delayed experimental research, things are expected to return to normal once our society is reopened. Tampere University is well positioned to continue developing its scientific research, related interaction with society and the delivery of impact.