Co-Innovation

Joint actions of research organizations and companies

In January 2020, Business Finland renewed its Co-Innovation funding. The objective is to increase collaboration of researchers with both companies and international partners.

The reform increased the level of Business Finland funding to 70% of the total eligible research project costs. Along with the increased funding level, separate incentive for international collaboration was discontinued. From now on, as a rule, all research projects are expected to have international collaboration to be eligible for funding. Only in exceptional cases collaboration at the national level only may be sufficient for earning funding.

Earlier, only those companies who have been co-funding Co-Innovation research projects have had the right of first refusal on utilization of the research results of such projects. Now the right of first refusal has also been extended to those companies who are implementing their own R&D project parallel to the public research project.

Read the news on the changes

For whom?

In a Co-Innovation joint action, there may be several research organizations and several companies as partners. Companies may have different roles: they may have their own R&D project, or they may be co-funding the research project or act as a subcontractor to a project implemented by another company.

A Co-Innovation project can be formed by at least two companies together. If one or more research organizations are involved in the Co-innovation project, there must also be at least three companies which have applied for Business Finland funding for their R&D project.

The consortium must be of an appropriate size with a view to implementing the project. Every participant must have a justified role regarding the implementation or utilization of project results. Often an appropriate size for a consortium is 5 to 7 participants, with additional companies funding the project or otherwise involved in it without having an R&D project of their own.

Priority is given to credible projects supporting the growth and internationalization of SMEs or mid cap companies, where involvement of large corporations is also possible. For startups, a separate project of their own is often more practical than participation in a Co-Innovation joint action. However, for a justified reason startups may also participate in a joint project, to bring some special expertise to the project, for example. Practice has shown that good corporate partners have been the kind of organizations which already have some exports or international business activities.

What?

Companies and research organizations collaborate to develop new knowledge and innovations to serve as a basis for international business activities. The participants in a joint action have a common goal and the need to do projects in collaboration with others and a plan for reaching the joint objective.

Funding is used for enhancing the research organization's competence, and for accelerating the utilization of research data and development of new export products. Co-Innovation joint actions reinforce both the Finnish and international networks.

Co-Innovation funding is used for funding projects that have undergone the Co-Creation phase or projects prepared directly without such a phase.

When?

When companies and research organizations want to engage in research and development in close collaboration with each other.

Companies accelerate the utilization of their research competence and solutions in their innovation activities, while making advances in accordance with their own R&D objectives.

The research topics are based on the research ideas and needs jointly developed and planned by research organizations and companies.

Public research projects must be scientifically ambitious. We may fund problem-oriented, internationally competitive research and researcher mobility involving research organizations. The results of a public research project must be widely applicable, possibly also outside the consortium. Companies should notice that researchers often publish research findings already during the project, but participants in a joint action may agree between themselves about the publication practices. Public research projects are steered by companies with potential for utilizing the project results.

Private-sector projects are R&D projects of individual companies implemented as separate projects parallel to the research project, as part of the joint action. The private-sector projects comply with the growth objectives and strategies of the company in question. To these companies we may provide R&D funding that suits their needs and growth objectives.

How does the funding work?

Business Finland's funding to a research organization typically covers 70% of the research project's approved total eligible costs. The typical total duration of a project is 2 to 3 years. The projects implemented by research organizations comply with the General terms and conditions of public research funding applied by Business Finland.

The company funding complies with the forms of funding granted to and assessment criteria applied to private companies by Business Finland. The level of funding is based on the size of the company, and the content and objectives of the project. The growth objectives and strategies of an individual company should be reached also in projects implemented as part of joint action. In the company's own application, it is important to describe how the sub-project is linked to joint activities. The company must have sufficient resources and funding of its own for completing the project. The private-sector projects funded by Business Finland must comply with the general criteria applicable to the funding of private-sector research and development.

Our share of funding in the projects of SMEs and midcap companies
Our share of funding in the projects of large companies

Typical obstacles to receiving funding for a joint action include:

  • In the joint action plan, no clear role has been described for the company nor collaboration with the other parties involved in the achievement of the targets set for the joint action entity.
  • The impacts of the joint action results (exports, turnover) are small compared to the overall funding needed.
  • There are not enough parties involved in the jointi action for achieving a credible outcome. This may lead either to lack of competence or limited impact (see the point above).
  • The company has unpaid debts (VAT, employer's contributions, outstanding tax debt, equity depleted). The company does not have financial prerequisites for funding their own project or suitable personnel resources for implementing their project or prerequisites for international business operations. When even one company participant drops out of the joint action, it has an impact on the joint action plan.
  • The expanding impact on networks deriving from the involvement of a large company is limited (the volume of subcontracting from SMEs or commissioned research remains small).
  • The overall plan lacks the objective of international growth or the objective is modest.

Apply for funding

How to apply funding?

Funding for Co-innovation joint actions can be applied for on a continuous basis. 

BEFORE SUBMITTING APPLICATIONS

Research organization: Before submitting the application, first discuss the planned application with your own organization’s support services for research and after that with Business Finland’s research funding team. See the contact details below. Prepare to present the consortium and the project plan before applying for funding.

Private company: Co-Innovation projects may also be launched at the private-sector initiative. Companies may contact their own account manager at Business Finland, or if they do not have one, one of the contact persons listed below, see their contact details below. Prepare to present the consortium and the project plan before applying for funding.

If the preliminary discussions lead to further development of the idea, Business Finland will appoint a contact person for the Co-Innovation entity, who will be the contact person for all the parties involved. The coordinator of the Co-Innovation entity will ensure that all parties are informed about who is their contact person at Business Finland.

Joint action plan

A joint action must have a joint action plan, describing the entity.

The joint action plan is summarized in the main application of the joint action. No attachments may be attached to the main application. The broader joint action plan described below will be attached as a document to the coordinator's application for participation. The main application for a joint action cannot be replaced by a joint action plan alone.

The maximum length of the joint action plan is 20 pages. In addition to the joint action plan, companies may have complementary plans for the parts not directly linked to the joint action plan.

In the joint action plan, describe the concrete implementation and resourcing of the joint action:

  • What are you aiming at and how do you monitor the achievement of the goals (e.g. what has been achieved by the completion of the project and the KPIs reached).
  • How will the entity affect the growth of the companies’ business operations and exports in the long run. How will the results of the joint action be actively disseminated and utilized during and after the joint action (particularly the public research part of it).
  • Which participants will apply for Business Finland funding, and which ones will be otherwise involved in the joint action. A brief account of what each participant will contribute to the joint action, what they expect from it and for what kind of a budget.
  • What actions will be taken (e.g. a report, analysis, research paper) and by whom. What kind of research will be conducted in the joint action and which companies will benefit from it. The roles and collaboration of each participant in the joint action (who will be responsible for each outcome and what will each of them do).

PREPARING AND SUBMITTING APPLICATIONS

The funding applications are submitted via Business Finland’s Online Service using joint action application forms. The Coordinator will use the main application form for the joint action and the participants will use the application form for a participant in the joint action.

1) The main application is submitted by the coordinator

The joint action starts with the main application, which is carried out by the coordinator, i.e. the organization that has gathered the whole together. The coordinator will indicate the number of participants in the application and set a deadline for the submission of participants´applications. In addition, the coordinator will inform the participants of the joint action ID, which will be used to join the joint entity. The coordinator will be able to monitor the status of applications of participants in the main application.

If the coordinator applies for funding for its own activities, it must also fill in the participant application.

The joint action plan will be included as part of the coordinator's participant application. If the coordinator does not apply for funding for its own project, the joint action plan can be included as part of the application of another key participant. In this case, it should be mentioned in the main application which participant application the joint action plan is part of.

2) Each participant of the joint action prepares its own application

Each participant in the joint action prepares its own application and attaches the joint project ID received from the coordinator. In this way, the participant joins the joint entity and sees the application deadline.

Companies participating with in-kind contributions submit their participation statement in a separate appendix and do not submit their own application.

3) The coordinator sends the whole to Business Finland

The Coordinator can send the whole to Business Finland either immediately after the deadline or when all applications for participation have been completed.

Evaluation of applications

Advisers at Business Finland will evaluate the joint action as an entity. The evaluation will also take account of other, competing funding applications.

IMPORTANT EVALUATION FACTORS:

  • The proven relevance and the need for research identified by companies
  • Credibility of the joint action
  • Are the participants in the joint action the right ones for reaching the targeted results
  • Is the funding needed reasonably proportioned to the targeted results and routes of utilization
  • How will the joint action affect the development of international business operations of SMEs and midcap companies
  • The novelty value and competitive advantage of the solution, its market potential, societal impact and the international collaboration within the joint action (requirement of international collaboration in research projects).

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION IN RESEARCH PROJECTS

One of the requirements for funding is that Co-Innovation research projects include international collaboration that promotes the productivity of the project. The project must meet at least one of the following requirements for collaboration:

  • Joint action with common goals and measures, a joint project plan with a foreign organization
  • Competence mobility to Finland or from Finland, researcher exchange of at least 3 person-months
  • Purchase of competence or rights, purchase of a license or other user rights needed in the project, technology transfer
  • Organized information exchange, systematic information exchange during the project, methods of acquiring information for the benefit of the project

In companies´ projects, we also assess how the project promotes the attainment of the company’s own growth objectives and generation of international competitive advantage and turnover. The company must have sufficient resources and funding of its own for completing the project.

In research organization projects, we also assess how public research provides foundations for new innovations and competence and how the competence and project results can be utilized for business purposes. No private-sector product development can be performed in public research projects. Instead, the research project results serve as a basis for development projects of individual companies.

Reporting projects 

As a rule, partners in joint actions simultaneously report on the implementation of their sub-projects and cooperation in accordance with the reporting schedule given in the funding decision. Simultaneous reporting makes it easier to monitor the joint action and its goals.

In addition to the monitoring of project costs and progress, the project partners report on how well collaboration has been realized.

If any changes deviating from the approved project plan are needed in collaboration, approval for the changes must be sought from Business Finland in advance.

Coordination and reporting of a joint project 

The coordination of large joint actions is a demanding task, and those participating in joint actions must assign sufficient and necessary working hours and competence to managing the project. The participants in a joint action must agree between themselves which one of them coordinates the preparation and implementation of the joint action. The coordinator of the joint action entity will represent the joint action at Business Finland and report on the progress of the entity to Business Finland (as part of the reporting on its own sub-project).

The consortium may mutually agree that the party taking care of the coordination will invoice expenses accrued from coordination duties from other participants in the joint action, regarding such matters as legal services related to contract negotiations (often university). The expenses are regarded as eligible costs in the sub-projects of other funding recipients in the joint action. The service provided by the partner coordinating the joint project is considered economic activity and, therefore, not part of the said partner’s (coordinator’s) own development project/sub-project.

The coordination of a joint action does not include organization-specific internal project management or reporting to Business Finland. The funding decision is organization-specific, and each beneficiary is responsible for the reporting to Business Finland on their own sub-project referred to in the funding decision. Administrative costs are included in the overheads in the participant’s own project.

Co-operation agreements

The parties to the joint projects should agree to conclude a mutual cooperation agreement, which states:

  • Management of the joint action
  • Ownership and access rights for the results
  • The principles of knowledge transfer
  • Sharing of large subcontracting between the participants
  • Responsibilities in case participants withdraws the joint action. 

You can find model agreements on the right column of this page.

Steering and monitoring of a research project

The principles of steering and monitoring of a research project in a Co-Innovation joint action

Eligible costs

Eligible costs of companies´R&D and public research projects

Joint action model agreements

The joint action model agreements have been developed in collaboration with some universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes. Business Finland is not responsible for the content, usability or updating of the models