Profile building areas

The University of Helsinki strengthens its research profile in strategically selected areas with competitive funding for profiling. On this page, we present the profile building areas and measures that have been supported.
What are profile building areas and measures?

The Academy of Finland grants competitive funding to Finnish universities for strengthening of research profiles. The funding is granted to specific profile building areas.

A profile building area can be a field of research or a thematic research module. The area must be a carefully chosen, strategic part of the research at the university.

Profile building measures are the specific actions that the university takes to develop the chosen profile building areas.

The profile building measures at the University of Helsinki have included mainly

Through the profiling funding, bottom-up profile building initiatives have taken the forms of institutes, networks, collaborative platforms, hubs, or research projects, depending on the objective set for the area.

The University of Helsinki has received more than 120 million euros of funding in the first seven Academy of Finland calls. In the following sections, we present the profile building areas and measures taken by the University of Helsinki with the assistance of the funding from profiling calls 1 to 7 (PROFI1–PROFI7).

Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH)

Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities was established in 2020. In this profile building area, we develop the institute further.

Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities aims at becoming one of the top European research environments in its field. The institute focuses on multidisciplinary research and methodology in the social sciences and humanities. It strengthens the institutional, infrastructural and interdisciplinary engagement with expanding digital data and a datafied society.

The institute combines the focus areas of research at five faculties (Arts, Educational Sciences, Law, Social Sciences, and Theology), the Swedish School of Social Science and the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. It improves the coordination and usability of local and national research and data infrastructures in the social sciences and humanities.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI6, and received funding for 2021–2026.

Interactions of Earth Components (InterEarth)

The goal of Interactions of Earth Components (InterEarth) is to establish a top-level, interdisciplinary hub producing new knowledge of the interactions and feedbacks between the Earth components (biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere) and spearheading science-based solutions related to the interlinked grand challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, the sustainable supply and use of natural resources, air quality, and natural hazards.

The profiling area unites research across three faculties (Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Forestry, Biological and Environmental Sciences) and our Natural History Museum Luomus, integrating multidisciplinary big data on environment and natural resources with experimental work and modelling across 10 fields (physics, biology, ecology, chemistry, forestry, agriculture, geosciences, geography, environmental sciences, and data science).

Our top research and globally unique supersites in the Arctic-Boreal region (including the national nodes of 6 European Research Infrastructures) and tropical Africa, provide an excellent opportunity to become a leading hub in this emerging field of interdisciplinary Earth system science.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI7, and received funding for 2023–2028.

Interdisciplinary Research for Health and Wellbeing (UHealth)

In the profile building area Interdisciplinary Research for Health and Wellbeing (UHealth), we unite health research conducted in real-life contexts. We turn multidisciplinary discoveries into solutions for global and local health challenges.

Interdisciplinary Research for Health and Wellbeing creates a new multidisciplinary platform. It combines clinical, participatory and action research in medicine, pharmacy, health sciences, social sciences, food sciences and clinical linguistics.

This profile building area cuts across the wealth of health research at our university, including our Digital precision cancer medicine flagship. It strengthens leadership and top-level research around two main themes:

  1. Health services
  2. Prevention

This profile building area is a part of PROFI6, and received funding for 2021–2026.

Resilient and Just Systems (RESET)

Resilient and Just Systems (RESET), a profile-building area based on strong interdisciplinary activities under the Profi 7 funding scheme, creates a transdisciplinary research environment that integrates the life sciences and social sciences, offering resilient and just solutions for strengthening the capacity for systemic recovery. Humans, animals and society must adapt to the big changes taking place on Earth. This project aims to produce tools that enable fairer and more equal adaptation.

Three of the earlier profile-building areas, The HOH Helsinki One Health network, the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS and the Helsinki Inequality Initiative INEQ are embarking on implementing the RESET project as part of their operations. The RESET area is led by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, with seven other faculties (Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Theology and Faculty of Social Sciences) from three campuses and the independent Helsinki Institute of Life Science HiLIFE participating.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI7, and received funding for 2023–2028.

Helsinki Inequality Initiative (INEQ)

INEQ – Helsinki Inequality Initiative is a multidisciplinary research initiative. It brings together academics whose work enhances an in-depth understanding of causes and consequences of intersecting inequalities.

INEQ is shaped by three interrelated themes: recognition, representation, responses.

The objective of the profile building initiative is to synthesize, coordinate and expand critical knowledge of inequality, wellbeing and security. INEQ’s scope that spans across a range of social sciences, humanities, education and health research at University of Helsinki.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI4, and received funding for 2018–2022. INEQ continues to work under RESET profile-building area.

Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)

The Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS meets urgent and complex sustainability challenges. HELSUS produces solutions and pathways for sustainable transformations, which can be applied in society, for instance, with smart policy instruments and regulation. 

The objective is to create a high-level, internationally recognized research platform in sustainability science

  • focusing on sustainability transformations in the urban, food  systems, Global South, and Arctic contexts, and
  • producing transformative knowledge for national and international policy and governance.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI3, and received funding for 2017–2021.

Helsinki One Health (HOH)

HOH Helsinki One Health is a network organization launched to coordinate research actions within the area of One Health at the University of Helsinki.

Helsinki One Health is encouraging various disciplines and professions to work together to resolve emerging health problems concerning animal and human populations worldwide.

The objective is to create a high-level research unit, taking international leadership in the One Health research areas of food safety and control, translational medicine and animal health and welfare.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI4, and received funding for 2018–2022. One Health continues to work under RESET profile-building area.

Understanding the Human Brain (UHBRAIN)

The profile building area titled Understanding the Human Brain integrates multidisciplinary neuroscience, coordinates seamless local and national collaboration, and promotes research-based innovations for the prevention and treatment of brain disorders.

We believe successful protection and efficient treatment of the brain demands better understanding of the human brain. Because the amount of factors contributing to brain functions is huge, coordinated multidisciplinary efforts are sorely needed.

Understanding the Human Brain deepens the work that we have done with profiling funding for the life sciences. This profile building area is led by the Neuroscience Center, one of three core units of Helsinki Institute of Life Sciences, which was established with funding from the first profiling call.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI6, and received funding for 2021–2026.

Past profile building areas

These profile building areas were part of PROFI1 (2015-2019) or PROFI2 (2016-2020). Research in these areas has been strengthened by the profile building measures that were funded by the Academy of Finland.

Behavioural Life Science (BLS)

Behavioural Life Science (BLS) is a rising research area which has connections to the digitalisation focus in the social sciences and humanities by way of a new tenure track positions concentrating on eHealth and wellbeing.

University of Helsinki psychology research focuses on the neural, molecular and biological basis of human behaviour.

The objectives of this profiling area were to:

  1. facilitate ongoing and stimulate novel (e.g., pharmaceutical) BLS research and collaboration 
  2. bring University of Helsinki’s psychology expertise in BLS research and methodology to the Life Sciences
  3. facilitate BLS research in patients and clients of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS)
  4. enable the coordinated, cost-effective use of the existing Life Sciences and psychology research infrastructure (e.g., brain research equipment, biobanking) and the planning of new investments
  5. bring new expertise and contacts to the development of Life Sciences’ single-entrance platform for university-industry collaboration
  6. concentrate the undergraduate, doctoral and specialisation education of health care professionals at the university to the Life Sciences environment.

This profile building area was a part of PROFI2 (2016-2020).

Global Law (GLAW)

Global Law (GLAW) strengthened further the global orientation of University of Helsinki research, recognised, for example, in UNIFI structural development reports on foreign languages and cultures as well as social sciences. 

In an interdependent world, law must be increasingly understood in a global legal, social, political and economic landscape.

Issues arising from globalisation have radically challenged legal science and practices. The aim was to involve GLAW more actively in the resolution of global problems and global conflict resolution.

The objectives of this profile building area were to build on existing research strengths, which included:

  1. international and European law
  2. the increasing combination of dogmatic, comparative, empirical, theoretical and historical studies of law
  3. problem-oriented research carried out across both the traditional branches of law and the disciplines of science
  4. the contribution of the critical analysis of law to the transfer of ideas, mutual learning, and the overall development of the living conditions of people
  5. the wide network of international partnerships in legal research.

This profile building area was a part of PROFI2 (2016-2020).

Finnish Platform for Pharmaceutical Research - FinPharma

Pharmaceutical research is a strong field within the University of Helsinki’s Life Sciences, and highly ranked internationally. The high scientific level is a prerequisite for new discoveries, urgently needed for translating the findings of basic research into therapeutic applications.

The objective of FinPharma is to profile Finnish pharmaceutical research towards a new era of regenerative medicine. FinPharma will create an internationally recognized drug research platform that facilitates the discovery and development of innovative candidate drugs and pharmaceutical preparations.

The platform is a collaborative effort with the University of Eastern Finland and Åbo Akademi University. FinPharma joins the research environments at the three universities, complementing their current expertise and developing unique knowledge and capacities in Finland.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI5, and received funding for 2019–2023.

Helsinki Centre for Data Science (HiDATA)

HiDATA is a world-class hub of Data Science in Helsinki. It is a joint hub of University of Helsinki and Aalto University, combining the forces of the two strongest units in data science in Finland.

The centre builds on the pioneering scientific results of the community and paves way for new breakthrough results across disciplines. The overarching goal of HiDATA is to leverage the synergies of the network in solving significant societal and industrial challenges related to data analysis. 

One spearhead in HiDATA’s research is the Planet-scale environmental monitoring initiative MegaSense.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI3, and received funding for 2017–2021.

Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (HELDIG)

Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (HELDIG) is a research network and infrastructure for solving research problems in humanities and social sciences with new digital and computational methods, and for studying digitalization as a phenomenon.

This profile building area strengthened the already significant research orientation of digital humanities at the University. HELDIG has broadened and renewed research in humanities and social sciences, especially in the fields of linguistic, cultural, social and political interaction on a global scale.

HELDIG has paved the way towards the establishment of the Helsinki Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH) in 2020.

This profile building area was a part of PROFI2 (2016-2020).

Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE)

Helsinki Institute of Life Science HiLIFE is a multidisciplinary research institute which supports high-quality life science research across campuses and faculties.

The University’s life science research environment has become even more internationally attractive due to HiLIFE’s activities. HiLIFE has enhanced cross-border interdisciplinary life science research and elevated the quality of research in life sciences. The institute has brought together, targeted and supported research infrastructure platforms in the life sciences field.

HiLIFE has also enabled new openings of aligning biomedical data and informatics with HUS Helsinki University Hospital and wider Finnish health data. Many HiLIFE infrastructures support wider national outreach as well as innovative industry and commercial partnerships.

This profile building area was a part of PROFI1 (2015-2019).

Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR)

The Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR conducts world-leading research in atmospheric aerosol science, having exceptional international impact.

The objective is to strengthen the integrated multidisciplinary research environment for atmospheric and Earth system science, and to feed in scientific results for the national and international environment and climate policy.

Due to the multidisciplinary approach to measure everything exchanged between the Earth surface and the atmosphere, INAR has gained a leading role in Europe regarding the atmosphere-biosphere interaction research and atmospheric aerosol research. With its top-level research infrastructure and networks, INAR acts as the backbone of the field in Finland.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI3, and received funding for 2017–2021.

Interdisciplinary Russian Studies (INTERRUS)

Interdisciplinary Russian Studies (INTERRUS) builds on the widely recognized expertise in Russian studies at the University of Helsinki.

Expertise in Russian studies is of utmost strategic importance for political, security, economic and ecological reasons, not only for Finland but also globally. This profile building area has strengthened the University’s profile as a leading environment for interdisciplinary Russian studies in the world.

Profile building measures in this area included:

  • a shared tenure with HELDIG on big data approaches in Russian studies
  • cutting-edge research on the development of today’s Russia
  • strengthening research by recruiting new tenure track professors and interdisciplinary projects in key areas
  • continued innovative and active societal outreach in Finland and Europe

This profile building area was a part of PROFI2 (2016-2020).

Learning in the Digital World (LEAD)

LEAD builds on excellent-quality pedagogical research. The University of Helsinki is one of the most acclaimed in the world in educational sciences. LEAD conducts and connects cutting-edge research through international collaboration across diverse fields of science. The centre’s focus areas are

  • connections of learning
  • the brain
  • technology of learning in the digital world

LEAD conducts research on design and use of digital resources and learning environments in schools, teacher education and in working life. The centre also supports citizens in acquiring the digital competences that they need for a good quality of life.

LEAD further strengthens the University’s profile as a world leading environment for research on learning.

This profile building area was a part of PROFI2 (2016-2020).

Matter and Materials (M+M)

Matter and Materials promotes interdisciplinary work by recruiting excellent scientists to positions that bridge over traditional disciplines in new exciting ways.

The new connections include positions joining nanotechnology with pharmacy for new ways of drug development, understanding materials science in extreme conditions of particle accelerators and fusion reactors, as well as combining particle physics with cosmology to understand how the universe formed after the big bang.

This profile building area will bring forth new means to treat disease, new materials that can enable better energy production, as well as fundamental insights on the nature of our universe.

The research has a major industrial and commercial impact, both via collaboration with large enterprises, and in the generation of start-up companies. M+M is a joint action of the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Pharmacy.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI4, and received funding for 2018–2022.

Mind and Matter – Foundations of Information, Intelligence and Consciousness

Quantum information science is an emerging area of research that may fundamentally change how we view the concept of information. This has consequences for both technical (computers, AI) and human (memory, language, decision making) information processing.

In this research area, some of the most fascinating scientific and conceptual problems of our time can be found. The profile building area Mind and Matter brings together the top-level University of Helsinki research teams to tackle them.

Mind and Matter brings together social sciences and humanities with STEM perspectives to provide a radically new understanding of 1) Intelligence, 2) Consciousness and 3) Information.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI5, and received funding for 2019–2023.

Physics and ICT

In the Physics and ICT profiling area, the major achievement for the University of Helsinki has been a strengthened and clarified collaboration with Aalto University.

One of the key issues was to decide which areas of physics remain the focus at the University of Helsinki and which at Aalto University. Currently, the University of Helsinki hosts all basic research equipment for radiation-matter interactions in the Helsinki region.

Education and research collaboration with Aalto University has been strengthened as part of This profile building area. These have taken the forms of

This profile building area was a part of PROFI1 (2015-2019).


In the Statistics profile building area, actions have supported multidisciplinary research through

  • recruitment
  • building a computational infrastructure for statistical genetics in collaboration with HiLIFE and its unit Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM)

This profile building area has enabled organising the biostatistics research at the University of Helsinki under a common umbrella and developing digital teaching methods for biostatistics.

This profile building area was a part of PROFI1 (2015-2019).

Thriving nature

Thriving nature is a top-quality field within the life sciences at the University of Helsinki.

The objective of the profile building initiative is to establish unique interdisciplinary research combinations tackling the organismal and genomic basis of biological resilience and adaptation, answering global challenges facing domesticated and non-domesticated species in natural and managed environments.

This will be accomplished by

  • assembling some of the world’s best research groups from different areas of life science at the University of Helsinki, into new unique combinations, and
  • taking advantage of the paradigm shift taking place within life sciences: since all biological levels (cells, individuals, populations, communities) interact, they must be studied using dynamic networks of interactions among genes, organisms and their environments.

Thriving nature combines our top-quality expertise, unique among Finnish universities, in the areas of ecology and evolutionary biology, genome-level processes, biotechnology, big data, molecular and translational plant biology, and agricultural and forest breeding.

This profile building area is a part of PROFI5, and received funding for 2019–2023.

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