Most research and development in Estonia is performed in the public sector. The largest public research university is the University of Tartu, followed by the Tallinn University of Technology, the Estonian University of Life Sciences and Tallinn University. Other large research institutions that perform high-end research are the Estonian Biocentre, the Tartu Observatory, the Estonian Literary Museum, the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, and the Institute of the Estonian Language. The work of R&D institutions is supported by several foundations and research parks that aim to create a favorable environment for research in Estonia.
Estonia’s research and development policy is drafted by the Government and submitted to the Riigikogu for adoption. The Government is advised in R&D issues by the Research and Development Council. The Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, which receives advice from the Research Policy Committee, is responsible for the planning, coordination, execution and monitoring of the country’s research and education policy.
The main funding body for R&D in Estonia is the Estonian Research Council (ETAg) which was established as a government foundation in March 2012 by merging the Estonian Science Foundation with the Research Cooperation Centre, previously a department of the Archimedes Foundation. The Council is a member of Science Europe, an association of European research funding and research performing organisations.
The main functions of the Estonian Research Council are those performed by its six departments. The Department of Research Funding is responsible for the distribution of institutional and personal grants and the handling of grant applications. The Department of R&D Analysis assesses the effectiveness and impact of grants provided, monitors the creation and use of intellectual property as well as the adherence to the ethical principles and research integrity. The Department of International Research Cooperation acts as a National Contact Point for the EU Framework Programme for Research (Horizon 2020) and represents Estonia in several international cooperation programmes and networks. The Department of Research Programmes implements the European structural aid programmes for R&D and for promotion of science, among which is providing support also for internationalisation of research, mobility of researchers and the next generation of researchers. The Science Communication Department runs a wide variety of science communication activities addressing diverse audiences from the young people to the general public. The last but not least department administers the work of the Estonian Research Information System (ETIS) which concentrates information on researchers, research projects, R&D institutions and various research results. The database allows searches to be performed for researchers, biographies, granted projects, publications, etc. ETIS also functions as a channel for submitting and processing grant applications and for submitting and validating project reports.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is responsible for the planning, coordination, execution and supervision of innovation policy. The ministry is advised by the Innovation Policy Committee. The national support measures for innovation policy are implemented by Enterprise Estonia.
Enterprise Estonia is one of the largest institutions within the national entrepreneurship support system in Estonia, providing grants for product development, specialized advice, partnership opportunities and training for entrepreneurs, research and development institutions and for the public and the third sector.
Run by Enterprise Estonia, the Technology Competence Centre Programme is aimed at improving the competitiveness of businesses through strategic cooperation between the research and industry sector in Estonia. Competence centres are small R&D organisations jointly established and operated by a number of companies and universities. Such centres are characterised by their strong focus on applied research, which is essential for developing the products of the partners who found these centres. A new programme was launched in the summer 2015 to provide support for six technology competence centres in 2014-2020: Health Technology; Food and Fermentation Technologies; Bio-Competence Centre of Healthy Dairy Products; ELIKO Competenve Centre; Software Technology and Applications (STACC) and Innovative Manufacturing Engineering Systems (IMECC).
The Estonian Academy of Sciences unites 78 top-level Estonian scientists and scholars (as of August 2015) and acts as an umbrella organisation for a number of associated R&D organisations. The primary mission of the EAS is to advance scientific research, to provide high-level expertise and advice for the governmental organisations, helping them to shape knowledge-based decisions at national level, and to disseminate knowledge and promote research cooperation both at national and international level. The EAS represents Estonian research internationally, supports Estonian membership in international research associations and funds and operates a research exchange programme with 17 partner organisations abroad.
The Archimedes Foundation is an independent organisation founded by the Ministry of Education and Research to coordinate and implement programmes and projects in the area of training, education and research. The Foundation is the implementing body of Erasmus+, and administers several national and international scholarship schemes for improving academic mobility as well as for promoting Estonian higher education and research abroad. The Agency of Academic Recognition (Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre), a unit of the Foundation, is responsible for evaluating foreign qualifications, whereas the Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education carries out institutional accreditation and quality assessment of study groups. The Archimedes Foundation is also the Implementing Agency of Structural Support for the period of 2014-2020 in the field of R&D.
Research Centres of Excellence
Research Centres of Excellence are internationally prestigious research groups which work under common leadership and have clearly defined common goals. They receive funding from the Research Centres of Excellence (CoE) measure. The Centres of Excellence support Estonian top-level research to strengthen the position of Estonian research cooperation and competitiveness in Europe. Centres of Excellence in research for the period of 2016-2023 are:
• Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies (CEES)
• Centre of Excellence „Ecology of Global Change: Natural and Managed Ecosystems“ (EcolChange)
• Centre of Excellence “Dark Side of the Universe“ (Dark Universe)
• Centre of Excellence „Emerging Orders in Quantum and Nanomaterials“ (EQUiTANT)
• Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (EXCITE)
• Centre of Excellence “Zero Energy and Resource Efficient Buildings and Districts” (ZEBE)
• Centre of Excellence for Genomics and Translational Medicine (GenTransMed)
• Centre of Excellence in Molecular Cell Engineering
• Centre of Excellence „Advanced Materials and High-technology Devices for Sustainable Energetics, Sensorics and Nanoelectronics“ (HiTechDevices)