Excellence in Research

Research carried out at Aalto University is of high quality, as demonstrated by our researchers success e.g. in obtaining external research funding.

This page contains a listing of the most notable recognitions and funding awards received by Aalto University. The funding listed represents projects that are currently in progress, except for the European Research Council section, which mentions completed projects as well.

Academicians of Science

The President of Finland confers the title of Academician of Science on highly distinguished scientists and scholars from Finland and abroad. No more than sixteen Finns may bear the title at a time. Currently two of these are Aalto University professors: Riitta Hari and Risto Nieminen.

  • Riitta Hari (c) Heli Sorjonen

    Aalto-distinguished professor (emerita)
    Riitta Hari

  • Risto Nieminen

    Aalto-distinguished professor (emeritus)
    Risto Nieminen

Academy Professors

Academy Professors are awarded Academy of Finland funds for contributing to the development of their own research fields. The funding provides world-class scientists and scholars with the opportunity to practice research work on a fixed-term full-time basis. Academy Professors may carry out their own research plans, lead research teams, supervise young scientists and provide training.

Aalto University is currently home to five Academy Professors.

Academy of Finland’s Centres of Excellence

Centres of Excellence (CoE) are at the cutting edge of their disciplines, pioneering new avenues of enquiry and training the next generation of new talent for Finnish research and industry. CoEs are funded by the Academy of Finland and Finnish universities, research institutes, the private sector and many other sources. The funding is granted for a 6–8 year term.

At present, Aalto University is hosting seven and coordinating four Centres of Excellence.

Aalto University coordinates the following Centres of Excellence 

Aalto University takes part in the following Centres of Excellence

The Academy of Finland’s Strategic research funding (SRC funding)

Strategic Research Council (SRC) funding supports high quality research with potentially major impacts on society. Such research seeks concrete solutions to significant problems, and requires a multidisciplinary approach. Collaboration between knowledge producers and knowledge users is essential. SRC programmes run for 3–6 years.

Aalto is a participant in eleven SRC projects, of which it coordinates seven.

Aalto University coordinates the following projects  

Aalto University takes part in the following projects

The European Research Council funding (ERC)

ERC funding is awarded to leading researchers for pioneering work at the frontiers of science. Scientific excellence is the sole criterion on the basis of which ERC frontier research grants are awarded.

Funding awards are categorised according to professional stage: Starting Grants are for top researchers with 2 to 7 years experience after PhD, Consolidator Grants for those with 7–12 years experience after PhD, and Advance Grants supports established researchers known as leaders in their respective field of research. In addition, ERC grant recipients may apply for Proof of Concept funding as a recognition of the innovative potential of their ERC work and to support its commercial use.

Aalto University has hosted 29 ERC projects altogether, 23 of which are ongoing. Of the 22, there are 6 Advanced, 3 Consolidator, 10 Starting Grants and 4 Proof of Concept funding awards. 

ERC Advanced Grant funding

  • Professor Antero Arkkio: Additional losses in electrical machines
  • Professor Pertti Hakonen: Quantum devices in topological matter: carbon nanotubes, graphene, and novel superfluids
    • ERC Proof of Concept: Graphene Accelerometer
  • Academy Professor Olli Ikkala: Field driven materials for functions, dissipation, and mimicking Pavlovian adaptation
  • Professor Maarit Karppinen: Molecular-Layer-Engineered Inorganic-Organic Hybrid Materials
    • ERC Proof of Concept: Novel Thermoelectric Energy Solutions based on Flexible Thin-Film Materials
  • Academy Professor Jukka Pekola: Superconducting quantum heat engines and refrigerators
  • Professori Päivi Törmä: Condensation in designed systems
  • Professor, emeritus Grigory Volovik: From Topological Matter to Relativistic Quantum Vacuum

ERC Consolidator Grant funding

  • Assistant Professor Paula Hohti: Re-fashioning the Renaissance: Popular Groups, Fashion and the Material and Cultural Significance of Clothing in Europe, 1550-1650.
  • Visiting Professor Emma Master: Bio-derived HIgh Value polymers through novel Enzyme function
  • Senior scientist Mikko Möttönen: Quantum Environment Engineering for Steered Systems
  • Assistant Professor Robin Ras: Superslippery Liquid-Repellent Surfaces

  • Professor Mika Sillanpää: Cavity quantum phonon dynamics

ERC Starting Grant funding

  • Professor Sebastiaan van Dijken:  Electric-Field Control of Magnetic Domain Wall Motion and Fast Magnetic Switching: Magnetoelectrics at Micro, Nano, and Atomic Length Scales
  • Postdoctoral researcher Michael Hummel: Unlocking the Entire Wood Matrix for the Next Generation of Carbon Fibers
  • Assistant Professor Petteri Kaski: Theory and Practice of Advanced Search and Enumeration
  • Professor Peter Liljeroth: Atomically precise nanoelectronic materials
  • Senior scientist Mikko Möttönen: Single-Photon Microwave Devices: era of quantum optics outside cavities
    • ERC Proof of Concept: Self-calibrating nanobolometer based on superconductor–normal-metal hybrids
  • Professor Lauri Nummenmaa:  Fitting The World to Minds: Brain Basis of Sharing and Transmitting Representations of the Social World
  • Researcher Jani Oksanen: In-cavity thermophotonic cooling
  • Associate Professor Antti Oulasvirta: Computational User Interface Design
  • Associate Professor Lauri Parkkonen: High-resolution magnetoencephalography: Towards non-invasive corticography
  • Professor Hele Savin: Riddle of light induced degradation in silicon photovoltaics

Completed ERC-projects

  • Professor Sebastiaan van Dijken: ERC Proof of Concept: Electric-field driven magnetic domain wall motion for memory technologies, 2015-2016.
  • Academician of Science, professor Riitta Hari: Towards two-person neuroscience
  • Senior Scientist Tero Heikkilä: Mesoscopic heattronics: thermal and nonequilibrium effects and fluctuations in nanoelectronics
  • Academy Professor Olli Ikkala: Biomimetics for Functions and Responses
  • Professor Tapio Lokki: Physically-based Virtual Acoustics
  • Professor Ville Pulkki: Technologies and Psychophysics of Spatial Sound
  • Professor Mika Sillanpää: Electromechanical quantum coherent systems
  • Professor Marko Terviö: Talent and Learning in Imperfect Markets

Future and Emerging Technologies’ Flagship Iniatives (FET Flagship)

The Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships are visionary, large-scale, science-driven research initiatives that tackle scientific and technological challenges across disciplinary borders. Success demands cooperation between scientific fields and technologies, programmes and communities, as well as public and private funding sources. FET Flagship projects may continue for up to 10 years.

Aalto University is a partner in two FET Flagship –projects:

  • GRAPHENE - Graphene-based revolutions in ICT and beyond. Coordinated by Chalmers University of Technology and Aalto’s responsible professor Harri Lipsanen
  • HBP FPA - Human Brain Project Framework Partnership Agreement. Coordinated by Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne and Aalto’s responsible professor Ville Kyrki

European Institute of Innovation & Technology EIT

A major aim of EIT is to boost the competiveness of EU member states by collaboratively bringing together leading European higher education institutions, research centres and enterprises. EIT seeks to lower the barriers separating education, research and innovation.

Central to these efforts are EIT’s Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). Each of the KICs operates through co-location centres. These are located in multiple sites across Europe and represent the partners.

EIT funding comes from a number of sources, including the EU, EU member states and the participating organisations. Five KICs are currently operating at Aalto University, with three more commencing during 2017–2018.

Aalto University is involved in three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC)

  • EIT Digital, Future Information and Communication Technologies Aalto is involved as a core partner and co-location centre is located in Aalto campus
  • EIT Raw materials, Aalto is involved as a core partner and co-location centre is located in Aalto campus
  • Climate-KIC, Climate change mitigation and adaptation, Aalto is involved as an associate partner

Big strategic research openings - Tekes

Strategic research openings are projects aspiring for big breakthroughs, creating new areas of excellence and significant growth for Finland. Boldness, visionary capacity and multidisciplinarity have been the qualities sought after for the openings.

Aalto University is participating in seven and coordinating two strategic research openings. Tekes terminated the Big strategic research openings funding programme 2 years ago.

Aalto University coordinates the following projects:

Aalto takes part in the following projects:

  • Operations Manager Janne Aikio, VTT Oy, Aalto’s responsible professor Kari Halonen: The Naked User Approach – Nordic perspective to gadget-free hyperconnected environments
  • Docent Patrik Floréen, University of Helsinki, Aalto’s responsible professor Samuel Kaski: Revolution of Knowledge Work 2
  • Research Professor Merja Penttilä, VTT Oy, Aalto’s responsible professor Markus Linder. LIVING FACTORIES: Synthetic Biology for a Sustainable Bioeconomy
  • Professor Heikki Ruskoaho University of Helsinki, Aalto’s responsible professor Sami Franssila: Innovative Induction Initiative
  • Director Maritta Perälä-Heape, University of Oulu, Aalto’s responsible leader Senior Scientist, docent Olli Pitkänen.

FiDiPro – the Finland Distinguished Professor Programme

FiDiPro, a programme jointly funded by Tekes and the Academy of Finland, has offered universities and research institutes the opportunity to hire top-level foreign researchers, or Finnish researchers with extended work periods abroad, for fixed-term periods in Finland.

FiDiPro Professor funding was used to invite experienced and distinguished professorial-level talents to Finland, while FiDiPro Fellow was for inviting experienced post-doc level talents.

Aalto University hosts 12 FiDiPro projects, 11 in the Professor and one in the Fellow funding category. Tekes and the Academy of Finland terminated the FiDiPro funding programme 1 year ago.


  • Tatiana Budtova (MINES Paris Tech, Centre for Materials Forming, France), From ultra-light to ultra-strong all-cellulose composites via “green” processing
  • John Dempsey (Clarkson University, USA), Scaling of Ice Strength: Measurements and Modeling
  • Marcus Greferath (University College Dublin, Ireland), Applied algebra in communications technology
  • Eri Rauf Hürman (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), Sustainable production of ferroalloys, joint FiDiPro with the University of Oulu
  • Hiroshi Mamitsuka (Kyoto University, Japan), Machine Learning for Augmented Science and Knowledge Work
  • Peter McNeil (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia), Costume Methodologies – Building Methodological Tools for Research in the Field of Costume Design
  • Nasser Peyghambarian (University of Arizona, USA), Emerging nanophotonic devices using advanced materials, joint FiDiPro with the University of Eastern Finland
  • Gang Xiong (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China), Social Manufacturing
  • Stefano Zapper (National Research Council of Italy, CNR-IENI & Consorzio Nazionale Delle Ricerche, Italy), Noise and fluctuations in materials

FiDiPro Fellows

  • Richard Cuthbertson (University of Oxford, UK), Red Queen Effect: Strategies for an Innovative Landscape

Page content by: | Last updated: 17.10.2017.