Academy of Finland Centres of Excellence
The University of Helsinki leads seven of the 12 centres of excellence selected by the Academy of Finland for 2018–2025. We are collaborators in 2 additional centres. Read more about the centres of excellence on this page.
What are Academy of Finland Centres of Excellence?

The aim of Academy of Finland Centres of Excellence is to renew research, develop research environments and educate new talented researchers, responding to society’s needs.

The Centres of Excellence bring various research groups together around the same topic in extensive research programmes – centres of excellence. Centres of Excellence are at the very cutting edge of science in their fields.

Funding is provided by the Academy of Finland for an eight-year term, enabling long-term research in complex subjects.

Ancient Near Eastern Empires – Saana Svärd

The Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires studies how the social identities of groups of people were formed in the ancient Near Eastern empires.

The Near East was governed by various empires during the period starting 3,000 years ago and ending at the start of the Common Era. Power relations and the current dominant empire affected the identity of people, or who they felt themselves to be, in a way similar to power relations between states and societies affect the identities of people today.

The research conducted by the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires increases our understanding of how power relations affect people's identity and lifestyle. The centre also develops methods in digital humanities in the fields of language technology and network analyses as well as engages local communities in the preservation of cultural heritage.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires is Saana Svärd. The centre comprises scholars from the University of Helsinki and visiting scholars.

Complex Disease Genetics – Samuli Ripatti

The Centre of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics studies how understanding molecular-level mechanisms can help to better predict, prevent, diagnose and treat complex diseases.

Complex, or multifactorial, diseases are diseases, often common ones, that are caused by a combination of several factors. These include cardiovascular diseases, various types of diabetes, mental health disorders and allergies. Finnish gene registers and unique population studies enable the use of large datasets in research.

The Centre of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics is developing and planning to implement a new method based on large genetic and clinical datasets to better identify factors contributing to the risk of developing a disease or protection from one. The centre is also developing ways to apply genetic research outcomes in practice in the prevention and personalised care of complex diseases.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics is Samuli Ripatti. The centre comprises research groups at the University of Helsinki, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, and Harvard University.

Inverse Modelling and Imaging – Matti Lassas

The Centre of Excellence of Inverse Modelling and Imaging studies what kinds of mathematical inverse modelling methods can be used to solve complex inversion problems.

Inversion problems often arise from the need to ask simple questions, as it were, ‘the other way around’. For example, if a simple question would be “If we know the exact composition of the internal organs of a patient, what kinds of x-ray images could we get from the patient?”, the inverted question would be “If we have a certain group of two-dimensional x-ray images of a patient, what is the three-dimensional composition of the patient’s internal organs?”. Mathematical modelling that provides an answer to this question enables computed tomography in healthcare.

The Centre of Excellence of Inverse Modelling and Imaging produces new, efficient and theoretically sustainable solutions to practical inversion problems. The centre focuses in particular on issues related to medicine, geophysics, space research, remote sensing as well as environmental and climate research.

The director of the Centre of Excellence of Inverse Modelling and Imaging is Matti Lassas. The centre is internationally recognised as a leading unit in its field. It comprises research groups at the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, the University of Eastern Finland, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the University of Jyväskylä, the LUT University, the University of Oulu and Tampere University.

Law, Identity and the European Narratives

The Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives studies how various narratives about Europe came into existence.

The current official European narrative was born as a result of 20th century crises. The EU was established on the ideals of human rights, equality and economic opportunity. The support of these ideals among Europeans has decreased while simultaneously migrants seeking to enter Europe are searching for the very same things.

The Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives increases our understanding of how stories and ideals related to Europe continue to play a role in the activities of the EU. The research conducted by the centre also highlights alternative narratives and gives a voice to groups for whom Europe represents something other than security, justice and economic opportunity.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives is Kaius Tuori. The centre comprises scholars based at the University of Helsinki.

Stem Cell Metabolism – Pekka Katajisto

The Centre of Excellence in Stem Cell Metabolism studies how stem cell function can be modified by controlling their metabolism.

The metabolism of stem cells differs from that of other cells. We do not yet know exactly how stem cell metabolism affects their functioning.

The Centre of Excellence in Stem Cell Metabolism produces new research-based information on stem cell function and the significance of stem cell metabolism. Research conducted by the centre promotes the development of new stem-cell-based techniques, for example for treating ageing-related diseases, and for tissue repair, organ replacement and cellular-level therapies for diabetes.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Stem Cell Metabolism is Pekka Katajisto. The centre comprises research groups operating at the University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet.

Sustainable Space – Minna Palmroth

The Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research of Sustainable Space studies how space can be sustainably utilised for the benefit of science, technology and commerce.

An increasing number of small satellites are being launched into space for scientific, commercial and military purposes. However, they are rarely brought back from orbiting the Earth. Consequently, there was over 5,000 tonnes of space debris in the Earth's orbit in 2017. Due to space debris some orbits are no longer usable.

The Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research of Sustainable Space produces pioneering research-based information in the field of space research. The centre is developing and planning to launch a fleet of next-generation nano-satellites that can withstand radiation and be brought back from the orbit.

The director of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research of Sustainable Space is Minna Palmroth. The centre comprises research groups at the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, the University of Turku and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Tumour Genetics Research – Lauri Aaltonen

The Centre of Excellence in Tumor Genetics Research studies how the patient's own genome affects the characteristics of a tumour.

Each tumour is different, since the characteristics are affected by so many things: the environment, gene mutations occurring in the tumour during its lifetime and the patient’s own genome. Finland has unique national gene registers, which enable population-level data mining and efficient tumour research from the perspective of genetics.

The Centre of Excellence in Tumour Genetics Research produces new knowledge on how tumours function. Research conducted in the centre promotes the use of genetic information in clinical work.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Tumour Genetics Research is Lauri Aaltonen. The centre comprises research groups operating at the University of Helsinki, Tampere University, the University of Cambridge and the Finnish Cancer Registry.

Ageing and Care – Teppo Kröger, University of Jyväskylä

The Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care studies the transformation of ageing and care of the elderly.

The care sector is undergoing a transformation caused by, among other things, digitalisation, globalisation and the ageing of the population.

The Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care produces new information on the care needs, agency and equality of the ageing population as well as the changing nature of care work. The research conducted by the centre also highlights perspectives related to the care needs of minority groups and financial issues related to care.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care is Teppo Kröger. The centre comprises research groups at the University of Jyväskylä, Tampere University and the University of Helsinki.

Quantum Technology – Jukka Pekola, Aalto University

The Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology studies how to harness quantum phenomena in quantum devices and applications.

The Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology aims to introduce novel approaches for control of quantum phenomena and to develop new and improved quantum devices in a situation where, in the near future, quantum technologies are expected to have a profound impact on our society.

The research of the Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology combines experimental, theoretical and applied expertise in the field. New technological applications for the research are foreseen in quantum sensors, simulators, communication and computing, with expectation of significant scientific, economic and societal benefits.

The director of the Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology is Jukka Pekola. The Centre comprises research groups at the Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Centres of Excellence 2014–2019

Seven of the 14 centres of excellence selected by the Academy of Finland for 2014–2019 were coordinated by the University of Helsinki.

In addition, the University of Helsinki was a partner in four other centres of excellence:

  • The Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology of Primary Producers. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Eva-Mari Aro from the University of Turku.
  • Centre of Excellence in Laser Scanning Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Juha Hyyppä from the Finnish Geodetic Institute. The University of Oulu and Aalto University were also partners in the centre.
  • Centre of Excellence in Research on Mitochondria, Metabolism and Disease (FinMIT). The director of the Centre of Excellence was Howard Jacobs from Tampere University.
  • Centre of Excellence in Relational and Territorial Politics of Bordering, Identities and Transnationalization. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Anssi Paasi from the University of Oulu. Tampere University was also a partner in the centre.
Centres of Excellence 2012–2017

Eight of the 15 centres of excellence selected by the Academy of Finland for 2012–2017 were coordinated by the University of Helsinki:

  • Centre of Excellence in Cancer Genetics Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Lauri Aaltonen.
  • Centre of Excellence in Metapopulation Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Ilkka Hanski.
  • Centre of Excellence in Russian Studies. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Markku Kivinen.
  • Centre of Excellence in Molecular Systems Immunology and Physiology Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Mikael Knip.
  • Centre of Excellence in Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD). The director of the Centre of Excellence was Markku Leskelä.
  • Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Uskali Mäki.
  • Centre of Excellence in Inverse Problems Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Matti Lassas.
  • Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity in Interaction. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Marja-Leena Sorjonen.

The University of Helsinki was also a partner in two other centres of excellence:

  • Centre of Excellence in Computational Inference Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Samuel Kaski from Aalto University.
  • Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions Research. The director of the Centre of Excellence was Johanna Mappes from the University of Jyväskylä.
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