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Supporting the sciences

Research in the fields of medicine, veterinary medicine and pharmacy and branches of science supporting these receive around EUR 1 million per year in support from Orion Research Foundation.
9/30/2022 Author / Pirkko Koivu

Researchers in the early stages of their career can apply for both larger and smaller grants from Orion Research Foundation: The smaller grants, from EUR 3,000 to EUR 5,000, are intended for researchers who have not yet completed a doctorate. The larger grants, at most EUR 50,000, are intended for researchers with a doctorate, for the continuation of their research. In the applications for the larger grants, embarking on post-doctoral studies abroad, continuing or returning from post-doctoral studies abroad, or establishing a separate research group are all considered to be advantageous.

Two special grants

In 2022 the board of Orion Research Foundation decided to award two special grants of EUR 100,000. Similar grants have been awarded previously in 2012 and 2017.

Antti Rannikko, chairperson of the board of the Foundation, explains that the purpose of these two grants is to reward researchers who are halfway through their career, both for their valuable research work and for speaking publicly in support of research funding, thus promoting this cause on behalf of all researchers.

“We want to highlight positive messages from the field of research funding.”

Excellent vantage point into the world of research

Antti Rannikko joined the board of Orion Research Foundation as a member in 2019 and became chairperson in 2021. He is Senior Consultant in Urology at HUS and Professor of Urology at the University of Helsinki.

“Orion Research Foundation supports research very broadly, which offers opportunities to take a look outside of your own field of research.”

According to Antti Rannikko it has been interesting to discover how varied the research in medicine and its related fields is.

“The most promising are projects that study an innovative, important matter and in which the applicant has a real chance to achieve the aims. A good application will attract our interest.”

Rannikko would like to see more clinical trials, in particular, which are studies carried out on patients.

The research themes reflect different trends. Rannikko explains that there is currently considerable interest in advanced mathematics, artificial intelligence and registers, for example, and much is expected of artificial intelligence. Another example is research into the links between cancer cells and diseases that is related to gene technology and genotype, which has been happening for a long time and therapies are starting to emerge.

“These should also be studied carefully in clinical trials next,” says Rannikko.

 Board represents extensive expertise

The grant application period is from August to the beginning of September. During the autumn, after the grant applications have arrived, it is time for the members of the board of Orion Research Foundation to start their work.

“I first take a cursory look through the applications to find out which theme they relate to. Then I distribute them among the members of the board for evaluation,” says Rannikko.

The grant applications are evaluated and decisions on the distribution of the grants are made by the 11-member board, which is composed of experts in the field of medicine and the related sciences.

The board is independent of Orion: two of the members are nominated by Orion, and the rest of the members are nominated by the medical educational departments of various universities, the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim, the Finnish Chemical Society, the Finnish Pharmaceutical Society and the Finnish Veterinary Association.

“Orion’s Research Foundation that was established by Orion supports independent research,” says Anu Imppola, Head of the Research Foundation.

“The awarding of grants is not associated with Orion’s interests or research approaches,” she points out.

Amount to be distributed has grown

The sum awarded in the form of grants has been around EUR 1 million per year in recent years. Anu Imppola explains that the Foundation has received a good return on its investment over recent years, and that donated funds are also used for the grants. Orion donates money to the Foundation every year.

The number of grant applications has decreased from year to year, whereas the amount distributed has increased. Therefore, Antti Rannikko and Anu Imppola want to encourage researchers to apply for funding.

The European Day of Foundations and Donors, held on 1 October, highlights the charitable work of foundations.

The annual application period for Orion Research Foundation grants is from 1 August to 10 September. The recipients of the grants for 2023 grants will be chosen on 27 October 2022.