EU funding offers plenty of opportunities for social scientists
At the University of Eastern Finland, Laukkanen is, once again, providing support for research and assisting with proposals submitted to funding programmes.
“As the European Union’s programmes change and evolve all the time, my start here has involved learning lots of new things and getting myself updated. However, I’ve been able to get to work very quickly and I’ve been involved in drafting proposals right from the start.”
The Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies is home to research groups with extensive experience in submitting proposals to EU programmes. Some researchers, on the other hand, have a lot of experience in applying for funding mainly from national sources.
“Of course, researchers’ own preferences matter when it comes to funding instruments. If international research collaboration doesn’t seem to be sitting right, there is no obligation to get involved. However, the European Union’s funding programmes have a lot of untapped potential.”
Various funding instruments have themes that are well-aligned with the faculty’s research profile, such as population health and well-being, digital and green transitions, circular economy, and geopolitical challenges.
“There is also a lot of potential for social sciences to be coordinating projects, but it requires motivation and, above all, time and resources to be able to commit to the work.”
Multidisciplinary approach creates a positive vibe
Laukkanen has a positive impression of the university’s multidisciplinary approach. Researchers have a lot of collaboration outside their own department, and proposals are often submitted jointly by researchers from several departments.
“It has been nice to see this kind of initiative in cross-departmental research collaboration. In externally funded projects, it is a strength for the university to be able to increase its share and to provide a readily multidisciplinary approach at the application stage.”
Rekindling collaboration with universities in the UK
Having worked in the UK for a long time, Laukkanen kept a close eye on the consequences of Brexit on research collaboration with countries in the EU. Research collaboration was experienced more difficult by European partners, and interest in joint projects waned.
“Many UK universities had been trusted coordinators of research projects, with support structures built around these coordination responsibilities.”
After a dry spell following Brexit, research collaboration between the UK and EU Member States is gaining new momentum, as a political agreement on the country’s full association in the Horizon Europe programme from the beginning of 2024 has finally been reached.
Laukkanen hopes that previous relations will be rekindled, and new opportunities for collaboration will be found through EU programmes.
“With the uncertainty now removed, it is important to normalise and foster relations. UK universities have been trusted partners for Nordic researchers, because they have a similar work culture and a lot of experience in promoting the impact of research.”