OECD Survey on the STI policy responses to Covid-19



Updated on: 2020-05-21

Q1A. What arrangements, if any, do you have in place to ensure scientific advice informs national policy and decision making in relation to Covid-19? On Monday 30 March, the Government decided to reorganise the management of the coronavirus crisis at the central government level. The COVID-19 Coordination Group set up in February, which initially consisted of the Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Preparedness of the ministries responsible for handling the coronavirus situation, was expanded to cover the Permanent Secretaries of all ministries. The emergency management organisation within the Prime Minister’s Office was also strengthened.

The task of the Government COVID-19 Coordination Group is to implement the decisions made by the Government to curb the coronavirus epidemic and to coordinate cooperation between the ministries. It will continue to meet at least twice a week.

On 8 April 2020, the Prime Minister’s Office appointed a working group tasked with preparing a plan for Finland’s way out of the COVID-19 crisis and deciding on measures to deal with its aftermath. With regard to the first task of the mandate, the preparation group will report in early May on measures to limit the economic and social damage in the immediate crisis stage and on how to move away from the measures now decided in a timely manner. With regard to the second task, the preparation group will report by 31 May on the post-crisis measures and how to prepare for their introduction in the various sectors of society.

The first part of the report was published in early May. Link to the report:

On Wednesday 22 April, the Prime Minister’s Office appointed a 13-member multidisciplinary scientific panel to support the work of the group set up by Prime Minister Sanna Marin on 8 April 2020 to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. The term of the scientific panel will continue until 31 May 2020.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Finance have appointed a working group of four economists to prepare an expert assessment of the impact of the coronavirus crisis and of measures that can be used to limit the damage to the Finnish economy. The working group will also explore measures that could help to get Finland back on track towards sustainable growth, high employment and sustainable public finances after the crisis. Report was published 8 May.
Link to the report (in Finnish) http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/handl...

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment have appointed a high-profile group for strengthening wellbeing and equality in the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic. The aim is to produce proposals on how to prevent persistent problems, social exclusion and an increase in inequality during the exit and reconstruction phase following the lifting of the restrictive measures used to tackle the coronavirus epidemic. The group will work until the end of May 2020.

As requested by the Ministry of Education and Culture, six researchers from different fields have looked into the effects of the coronavirus epidemic on children and young people in particular. According to the researchers, society must already take into account the period following the coronavirus crisis when planning different measures. In particular, the researchers raised the issue of additional resources for education and training, support for disadvantaged children and young people, and support for the arts and culture sectors.

Additional information on Government’s corona responses:
Q1B. In what ways, if any, are you coordinating on Covid-19 STI responses at international level? The Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) is enhancing its monitoring of the financial sector and, in cooperation with European and Finnish authorities, has adopted measures to promote access to funding and the smooth functioning of the markets despite the pandemic. The FIN-FSA confirms, in line with the decisions taken by the European Central Bank, that banks are temporarily exempt from fulfilling certain additional capital and liquidity requirements. This will facilitate credit institutions’ ability to provide funding to non-financial corporations and households and will alleviate the negative economic effects of the pandemic. The Board of the FIN-FSA has started work on an immediate review of the level of capital requirements that are subject to national decision-making. For more, see:

The European Commission and its partners have launched a pledging effort, the Coronavirus Global Response, to raise EUR 7.5 billion of funding to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines against the COVID-19 disease and to strengthen healthcare systems. Finland pledged EUR 36 million in the meeting that kick-started the global pledging effort on 4 May 2020.

Q2.Do you have dedicated arrangements in place for communicating science advice and for refuting misleading information to the public on Covid-19? The government is stressing in all of its communication the scientific base of its Corona actions and encourages citizens to follow its website (https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/information...) and the website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) (https://thl.fi/en/web/infectious-disease...), which provide up-to-date comprehensive information on the coronavirus. The Government website contains decisions by the Government, information produced by the ministries on the effects of the coronavirus on different administrative sectors as well as topical material on the coronavirus from all ministries.

For general information inquiries on the coronavirus a phone number (with chat function) has been set up. The information service is open on weekdays at 8–21 and Saturdays at 9–15.
Q3. What new STI policy measures, if any, is your country taking to respond specifically to the Covid-19 crisis? Please note that the response to this question is overlapping somewhat with the issues asked in question 6. We often find it difficult to make a difference between the actions and stimulus packages aimed at supporting the economy in general and on the innovation system in particular. Here is a summary of Covid-19 –related measures, organized by the authority responsible for the measures.

1) The Bank of Finland made decisions on 15 March 2020 on measures aimed at alleviating payment difficulties and liquidity shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring access to funding for households and businesses, particularly SMEs. The decisions were prepared in cooperation with the Government and key authorities, and in dialogue with the financial sector. They complement the decisions taken earlier by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) to support favourable liquidity conditions and preserve the smooth provision of credit in the euro area.

The Bank of Finland assesses, in close cooperation with national, European and Nordic authorities, the stability of the financial system and, in particular, developments in financial intermediation. The purpose is to facilitate the ability of credit institutions to provide funding to businesses and households and to mitigate the negative economic impact of the pandemic. The Board of the Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) has started work on an immediate review of the level of capital requirements that are subject to national decision-making.

In 2009–2018, the Bank of Finland invested in the domestic corporate paper market. This investment activity was discontinued as market volumes shrank, reflecting the decrease in funding needs of businesses. Recent events have weakened the ability of markets to function and increased the funding needs of businesses. The Bank of Finland has therefore decided to restart its activities in the domestic corporate paper markets. The size of the programme was initially EUR 500 million. A few days later, the size of the programme was increased to EUR 1 billion due to huge demand.

For more, see: https://www.suomenpankki.fi/en/media-and...

2) The Tax Administration will ease the terms of payment arrangements for the time being. If a company has difficulties paying taxes due to the coronavirus situation, it can request a payment arrangement with eased terms starting 25 March 2020. For example, according to the new terms, the first installment of the payment arrangement will fall due in three months after the arrangement has become active, as opposed to just one month.

See: https://www.vero.fi/en/About-us/newsroom...

3) The Government decided on 20 March on an extensive package to support companies and to alleviate the negative effects of the coronavirus epidemic (See press release: https://tem.fi/en/article/-/asset_publis...).
According to a government decision, 1,500 foreign seasonal workers can be employed to perform agricultural, forestry, horticultural and fishery work. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has provided the Finnish Border Guard a list of the most critical employees in terms of security of supply. Legislative amendments to legislation concerning the right of third-country nationals to work in duties central to the security of supply and the functioning of the labour market entered into force on 9 April 2020.


4) Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: The Government submitted the first supplementary budget proposal for 2020 to Parliament on 20 March. An additional appropriation of EUR 12.8 million is proposed for the operating expenses of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare for the expenditure arising from the coronavirus. The additional appropriation is intended for purposes such as disseminating information and raising awareness among citizens, for safeguarding the functioning of information systems and for maintaining laboratory capacity. Altogether, EUR 6 million of the additional appropriation will be allocated to a broad-based research consortium for research into the coronavirus epidemic, in particular for developing rapid diagnostic methods and research into the emergence of immunity and for creating a national monitoring system for it. Of the additional funding allocated to research, EUR 4 million will be used to monitor the effectiveness of the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

5) Organisations operating in the field of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (MEAE Group) monitor the effects of the coronavirus on businesses, employment, consumers and security of supply. The Ministry together with other organisations in the MEAE Group, monitors the effects of the coronavirus on business activities, employment and security of supply, and takes the necessary measures to alleviate the negative impacts. All the relevant general information about the coronavirus and the authorities’ actions and responses can be found from the following website: https://tem.fi/en/information-on-coronav...

In negotiations held on 13 May 2020, the Government decided to introduce a new form of support to businesses in all industries to cover their costs. The support is intended for companies that have experienced a marked decrease in turnover due to the coronavirus epidemic, and have costs that are difficult to adjust. Support is allocated to companies and sectors most severely affected by the coronavirus.


In the field of STI, it includes the following (newest at the top):

On 8 April the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment announced that it is seeking to ensure that businesses will be able to continue operating on a profitable basis after the coronavirus crisis is over.

Additional EUR 450 million from the supplementary budget to support businesses. The additional funding is aimed at ensuring that sufficient resources are allocated for both coronavirus-related financing already in use by Business Finland and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and for the support of sole entrepreneurs, to be introduced in the near future. Of this increase, EUR 100 million is intended for support provided by Business Finland, EUR 200 million for support provided by the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and EUR 150 million for the support of sole entrepreneurs.

As a whole, support for businesses during the coronavirus crisis will increase to EUR 1.45 billion, of which Business Finland support account for EUR 800 million. The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment will receive EUR 400 million and sole entrepreneurs, EUR 250 million


6) Business Finland (https://www.businessfinland.fi/en/for-fi...)
Business Finland’s grant authorisations will be increased by EUR 150 million to permit immediate business support measures.
On 19 March 2020, Business Finland launched two new financial services to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic. These services are intended for SMEs and midcaps operating in Finland whose business is suffering from the coronavirus situation. Financial services are intended for at least tourism and auxiliary tourism services, creative and performing industries and all sectors where subcontracting chains are affected. The funding is intended for companies to explore and tap into new business opportunities in emergency conditions. The first funding decisions were made immediately on 20 March 2020.

7) Finnvera (https://www.finnvera.fi/eng/)
The Government will make additional financing of EUR 10 billion available to businesses through Finnvera. The principal operating model is offering guarantees to banks that grant loans. In addition, the state will increase its coverage of Finnvera’s credit and guarantee losses from 50% to 80%.

8) ELY Centres (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment) (https://www.ely-keskus.fi/en/web/ely-en/...)
ELY Centres’ grant authorisations for business development projects will be increased by EUR 50 million. The additional authorisation will be used to support SMEs particularly in the service sector but also in other sectors as necessary to manage and prevent the effects of the coronavirus.

9) VTT – Technical Research Center (https://www.vttresearch.com/en)
VTT is responding to corona virus in various ways, including the following:

9.1 Responding to customer needs in exceptional circumstances
Through active and continuous communication, VTT enables the understanding of customer needs even in exceptional circumstances. All customer meetings have been converted to online meetings. Plans to help clients monitor the progress of their daily experimental work at VTT, for example, have been developed and are being implemented. VTT's new, streamlined website has been launched. In addition, social media and other digital marketing channels are actively used for communication. As an example, VTT utilizes webinars and recordings of VTT researchers' presentations to enable scientific exchange despite the prevailing conditions.

9.2 Immediate RTD actions to assist Finnish society during covid-19
During the Corona pandemic, VTT sees opportunities to participate in a joint national effort by leveraging the organization's expertise and available infrastructure. VTT has identified capabilities that would provide immediate national support for the Corona effort, as well as expertise that will bring significant benefits over the next year. Recognized examples include some with immediate effect, some requiring more time and also additional investments.

9.3 Measures to mitigate the economic shock and support national competitiveness
VTT has started planning how VTT's research resources can be harnessed to maintain Finland's competitiveness in this exceptional situation. As client assignments fade, VTT's freed up researcher resources can be utilized (subject to an increase in state aid) for strategic themes and projects that benefit Finnish industry and society and revitalize economic growth. VTT has the capability to launch such research projects quickly. The themes will not only address the challenges posed by the corona situation in terms of industrial competitiveness and security of supply, but will also continue to focus on providing solutions to the long-term challenges of carbon neutrality and the circular economy. Innovations related to these themes will also benefit Finland after the immediate corona crisis eased.

10) The Academy of Finland is making available funding for Covid-19 research (3 million euros) The aims of the funding to be granted for research into the COVID-19 epidemic are:
• to support research in the field and/or
• to improve open access to research data and outputs for researchers and society and/or
• to promote the use of research knowledge in mitigating the effects and/or
• to promote the utilisation of research-based knowledge and expertise.
The call is a targeted call intended for organisations. The organisation’s application consists of sub-applications. The sub-applications are based on the work of ongoing Academy-funded projects, which will ensure that activities can start as soon as possible. The plans of the sub-applications must be relevant to the theme of the call. The principal investigators of the sub-applications must have an ongoing Academy-funded research project on the closing date of the call.
The assessment will focus on how the plans are based on the work of the projects, their relevance to the theme of the call and whether the plan can be credibly implemented considering the current situation. The General Subcommittee of the Academy of Finland will make the funding decisions.

11) CSC-Center for Scientific Computing gives priority to its computation capacity for national health care organizations.
Q4A. At national level, what mechanisms are you developing or relying upon to bring together different STI actors (researchers, industry, government, health sector, foundations, etc.) to effectively collaborate on responses to Covid-19? The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, together with the Finnish business community, research institutes and other authorities, has clarified the preconditions for the production of domestic protective materials. The study has found dozens of domestic manufacturers who have the interest and ability to manufacture either respirators or protective clothing.

Under the leadership of the Defense Forces, the possibility of cleaning respirators and other protective equipment with a cleaning method based on hydrogen peroxide gas has been studied. The pilot plant based on the sea container solution was built in April and production testing operation began on 23 April. The testing phase is coming to an end on May 8, 2020. The results of the tests show that the respirators are microbiologically clean after treatment and meet the technical characteristics of the protectors, such as the filtering capacity of the filter material, the function of the filter mounting strips and the function of the protective valves and seals. In addition to respirators, the Defense Forces have investigated the possibility of cleaning protective jackets at the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. For these, testing is still ongoing.

There are many bottom up activities ongoing, below are some examples.

The COVID-19 host genetics initiative brings together the human genetics community to generate, share and analyze data to learn the genetic determinants of COVID-19 susceptibility, severity and outcomes. Such discoveries could help to generate hypotheses for drug repurposing, identify individuals at unusually high or low risk, and contribute to global knowledge of the biology of SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease. The initiative is co-ordinated from Finland.

A funding pool of four foundations distributed grants for research into factors affecting the course of infections and the intensive care of coronary patients, among others. As many as 180 applications were submitted to the pool during the week. The funding pool formed by the Juho Vainio Foundation, the Minerva Foundation, the Paulo Foundation and the Finnish Medical Foundation allocated 800,000 euros for research into the coronavirus and other viral infections that occur as epidemics and pandemics in an additional funding application.

Hack the Crisis Finland
Hack the Crisis Finland is an online hackathon organised by local companies, startups and tech communities, supported by the Finnish government. They submitted a call to action to each and everyone to participate in the fight and it is inspired by our southern neighbors from Estonia, who started the movement with their Hack the Crisis.

Fast Expert Teams vs. COVID-19: How Finland can avoid paralysis when experts cannot meet F2F?
The Fast Expert Teams initiative was started on March 16th to combine experts from universities, private and public sector organizations and ministries. This is a rapidly growing voluntary pro bono expert network, growing organically and working across professional and organizational borders with various digital tools and platforms to solve various complex problems that ministries are currently struggling with. Expertise is assembled to fit each complex task so that Fast Expert Teams can tackle various problems quickly.

Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences have been closed in Finland, but researchers can continue their studies in critical fields on the premises.
Q4B. At international level, what mechanisms are you developing or relying upon to bring together different STI actors (researchers, industry, government, health sector, foundations, etc.) to effectively collaborate on responses to Covid-19? The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish institute of Health and Welfare are liaising strongly with the ECDC and WHO. The Finnish R&I sector is working closely together with its European and Global counterparts on the COVID19 to find ways to respond to the epidemic by using and leveraging on the existing collaborations, partnerships and projects (for example funded through the European Commission). A total of EUR 5 million is proposed for Finland's participation in the research and development of a COVID-19 vaccine: EUR 4 million to CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation) and EUR 1 million to IVI (International Vaccine Institute).
Q5. What novel approaches, if any, is your country using to address the coronavirus crisis (e.g. use of machine learning, open science initiatives boosting access and sharing of data and research results, development and use of prediction models, etc.)? OECD Secretariat additions (30 March 2020):
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has produced, in cooperation with Esri Finland Oy, an open map application (http://www.thl.fi/koronakartta ; https://experience.arcgis.com/experience... ) based on the data from the National Infectious Diseases Register to present the confirmed cases in Finland as well as their prevalence (number of cases per 100,000 residents in the hospital district).
Q6A. What impact on the STI system do you anticipate in the short-, medium- and long-term, and what measures are you implementing to address those? The Academy of Finland has taken measures related to the application process, the use of funding, decision-making, etc.
Q6B. Is support of the STI system part of planned stimulus packages aimed at supporting the economy? Answers provided in question 3 are relevant here as well.

The Government has agreed on 20 March a comprehensive package to safeguard jobs and livelihoods and ease the economic pressure on businesses. According to the Government’s estimate, the overall scale of the measures will be approximately EUR 15 billion. See https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/article/-/a....
Q7. Is there anything else regarding the STI policy response to Covid-19 in your country you would like to mention? [Left blank]