Annual Report 2020: HIIT Funding

HIIT is transitioning from research programmes with certain participating researchers to encompassing the whole Helsinki ICT community (the four departments mentioned in Organisation), although with specific strategic focus areas. Therefore, we have reformed the financial reporting in the annual report and will not provide time series of the financial information below, as the numbers are not compatible. We will here report on the whole the external (competitive) research funding funding situation of the Helsinki ICT community, in order to give an idea of the overall research volume of this area, and on the HIIT own funding, in particular the community support. Examples of results supported by HIIT can be found in section Highlights and the profiles and main achievements of the postdoctoral researchers funded by HIIT can be found in the Section Funded Researchers.

To give a view of the volume of the whole Helsinki ICT community, we give below the total external research funding of the four departments in question. These numbers exclude the basic (university) funding of the departments supporting research through e.g. faculty salaries or department-funded doctoral student or postdoc positions, but these numbers cover only external (competitive) funding earmarked for research only.

Table 1: Total external research funding of the Helsinki ICT community in 2020 (sum of the figures for the four departments).

Helsinki ICT (thousand euros) %
Academy of Finland 11 783 42
Business Finland 3 273 12
European Union 4 835 17
Industry 3 818 13
Other funding (ministries, foundations, etc.)
4 588 16
Total 28 297

Figure 1. Distribution of external research funding of the Helsinki ICT community.

HIIT received in year 2020 own funding from Aalto University and from University of Helsinki, 750 000 euro from each. The following table shows how the funding was allocated.

Table 2: HIIT own university funding 2020.

HIIT (thousand euros) Aalto UH Total
Strategic Recruitment 300 300 600
Community Support 150 150 300
Programme Support 125 140 265
HICT 30 0 30
Administration 135 150 285
IT 10 10 20
Total 750 750 1500

As can be seen from the table, the funding is directed towards hiring HIIT postdoctoral researchers (“Strategic Recruitment”), see Funded Researchers, supporting activities of the Helsinki ICT community (“Community Support”) and supporting the research programmes (“Programme Support”). See below a more detailed report. The administrative costs are salaries for the Director and some other persons supporting the Helsinki ICT Community, see Organisation, and the remuneration of the members of the Scientific Advisory Board, which convened in 2020. Aalto University’s Department of Computer Science and the University of Helsinki’s Department of Computer Science provide general support to HIIT, in relation to e.g. finance and HR. Each researcher is employed at a department and receives administrative support (e.g. IT equipment, HR services) from their home department.

Community Support

HIIT supported the Helsinki ICT Community by providing funding for the following activities:

  • Organising events such as workshops, conferences, hackathons, bootcamps, and summer schools.
  • Initiating new collaborations on potentially high-impact research challenges, often in a multi-disciplinary and cross-university setting.
  • Inviting postdoctoral researchers for short visits that may lead to recruitment.
  • Visiting high-profile universities or other organisations abroad.
  • Boosting the careers of young researchers by providing short-term “bridge funding”.
  • Short-term support for research programmes.

This funding was not limited to the HIIT research programmes, but was open to the whole Helsinki ICT community. In addition, it served an important purpose by being applicable to cases where other funding instruments were not easily available or the funding from other sources was not sufficient. For a sample of the activities of the HIIT programmes, please see Highlights.

In 2020, 23 Community Support proposals received about 270 000 euros in total. 39% of this was spent on nurturing new collaborations and 58% on research programme funding. Due to the pandemic, HIIT supported only one research visit in 2020, and although support for many events was approved by the HIIT SG, most events were either cancelled or changed to a virtual event in which case no financial support was necessary.

Community support pie chart

Figure 2. Distribution of community support funding in 2020.

Within short-term research funding, HIIT funded 5 summer interns and 3 short-term research assistants. These included Francesco Fabbri, who is a co-author on an article accepted to the Web conference (WWW21), and Saska Dönges, who is now a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science, University of Helsinki.

The largest investments in new collaborations were directed to starting joint research projects related to edge AI-assisted active queue management and to explore the use of tactile feedback in VR performances with the Espoo City Theatre. HIIT additionally provided funding to a wide range of projects from industrial applications of computer vision to devices that allow monkeys to play music.

Due to the pandemic, much of the travel and events initially funded by HIIT did not take place. However, the AMICT workshop at FRUCT 2020 was held online and funding was given for a special issue of selected papers from FRUCT 2019. The Machine Learning Coffee Seminar continued as a weekly virtual event.