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Grants by the Orion Research Foundation enable researchers to seize significant opportunities

The Orion Research Foundation awarded more than EUR 1 million in grants to young researchers for 2021. We interviewed two previous grant recipients about the significance of the financial support: their grants enabled them to carry out postdoctoral research at universities abroad.
3/30/2021 Author / Essi Kähkönen

Anniina Snellman completed her doctorate in medicine at the University of Turku four years ago. After her dissertation, she started as a postdoctoral researcher in a group that examines early brain changes related to Alzheimer’s using PET imaging on voluntary test subjects.

Snellman received a significant grant from the Orion Research Foundation for this research for 2020. She says the grant played a key role in enabling her to continue her research work – in two countries.

“We wanted to combine the imaging material we had collected in Turku with new biomarkers indicating brain changes related to Alzheimer’s. These biomarkers are measured using blood or cerebrospinal fluid. The grant enabled me to study these measurements in more detail at the University of Gothenburg,” says Snellman.

Of the grant, around EUR 5,000 was earmarked for research expenses. The rest was intended for living – that is, for personal use.

Snellman describes the grant as vital for her work.

“Without the grant, I would never have been able to carry out research in Gothenburg. As a young researcher, the grant enabled me to create international contacts and gain intellectual capital in a way that would not have been possible in Finland.”

Research on the other side of the globe

Doctor of Medicine Aleksi Sihvonen from the University of Helsinki also received a major grant for postdoctoral work in a foreign institution for 2020. Sihvonen has studied brain blood circulation-related aphasia, an inability to formulate and comprehend language.

“I’m continuing my work at the University of Queensland in Australia. I’m part of a group that studies factors predicting recovery from aphasia, and whether listening to music aids recovery.”

The grant from the Orion Research Foundation enabled Sihvonen to pursue postdoctoral work on the other side of the globe.

“Without the grant, I wouldn’t have been able to join such an extensive international project. Now I can learn about brain analysis methods that are relatively unknown in Finland and later integrate what I’ve learned into Finnish brain research.”

More than EUR 1 million for 2021

The Orion Research Foundation supports research in medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and the related natural sciences. The Foundation awards grants for young researchers in these fields, mainly for dissertation work and postdoctoral research. Slightly more than EUR 1 million was awarded in grants for 2021.

Most of the grants are EUR 3,000–5,000. Since 2018, the Foundation has also awarded grants of a maximum of EUR 50,000, which are usually intended for postdoctoral work abroad or the establishment of a research group.

For 2021, major grants were awarded to 24 recent PhD graduate researchers for postdoctoral work. In addition, grants of a maximum of EUR 5,000 were awarded to 69 young researchers working on their dissertations.

The grants are largely based on the returns on the Foundation’s investments, with some of the funding coming from Orion annually. The Orion Research Foundation decides on the distribution of grants independently of the Orion Group.

Grants enable focused research

Aleksi Sihvonen stresses the importance of the Finnish background of the grants.

“It’s good that the grants are awarded by a Finnish operator that strongly supports postdoctoral researchers and researchers working on their dissertations. Without the grants, many promising studies would never have been completed.”

Sihvonen encourages young researchers to apply for a grant from the Orion Research Foundation with an open mind.

“Surviving without a grant can be hard. Many have a job or work as on-call doctors alongside their research. A grant makes it easier to fully focus on research.”