Annual Report 2021: 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 situation of the Helsinki ICT community, in order to give an idea of the overall research volume of this area, and on HIIT’s own funding, in particular the community support. Examples of research supported by HIIT can be found in Highlights and the profiles and main achievements of the postdoctoral researchers funded by HIIT can be found in 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 2021 (sum of the figures for the four departments).

Helsinki ICT (thousand euros) %
Academy of Finland 12 984
Business Finland 3 369 12
European Union 4 804 18
Industry 2 089 8
Other funding (ministries, foundations, etc.)
4 170 16
Total 27 599

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

HIIT received in year 2021 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 2021.

HIIT (thousand euros) Aalto UH Total
Strategic Recruitment 300 325 625
Community Support 290 225 515
Administration 160 200 360
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 and supporting activities of the Helsinki ICT community (“Community Support”), see below for 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 settings.
  • Inviting postdoctoral researchers for short visits that may lead to recruitment.
  • Visiting high-profile universities or other organisations abroad.
  • Short-term support for project work.

This funding was not limited to the HIIT focus areas 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 supported by HIIT, please see Highlights.

In 2021, 22 Community Support proposals received about 224 000 euros in total. 16% of this was spent on nurturing new collaborations, 42% on short-term project work, and 39% on thesis finalisation support. Due to the pandemic, HIIT supported only two research visits in 2021, and although support for many events was approved by the HIIT SG, most events were virtual, in which case no financial support was necessary, or hybrid events.

Figure 2. Distribution of community support funding in 2021.

Beginning in 2021, HIIT began a continuous call to provide short-term funding to doctoral students. The goal was to provide funding while doctoral students finalise their dissertations. HIIT termed this funding “Final Crunch Support,” which has been awarded to 11 students since its inception.

Within short-term research funding, HIIT funded 3 summer interns and 2 research assistants. These included projects related to approximate neighbor search with big data applications, generative models for text-to-image generation and visualization to aid insight generation.

The Machine Learning Coffee Seminar continued as a weekly virtual event and HIIT has committed to support the upcoming HelsinCHI coffee forum.