Pro aere
aqua terra

The Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation’s annual report 2021

The Nessling Foundation supports research promoting environmental protection and the use of researched environmental information in society.
On this page you will find key figures and highlights of the year.

Highlights of the year


Research director

“We cannot survive here alone.”

Minttu Jaakkola


Our awarded grants promote change

24 projects – totalling
2 235 472 €


Our new grant recipients are researching…

vegetated roofs and facades, dialogue between arts and science and socially sustainable production of various vehicle battery materials.


For us, reseach is participating

Tuimme tutkijoitamme ja vahvistimme heidän osaamistaan hakuprosessin alusta hankkeen päättymiseeen.


We collaborate with other foundations in funding projects that protect biodiversity and the climate

Yleisen apurahahaun ulkopuolella säätiömme jatkoi monivuotista tukea yhteisrahoitteisille hankkeille.


We make encounters and co-operation possible

Säätiön missiona on mahdollistaa kohtaamisia, sillä tarvitsemme jaettua näkemystä kestävyysmurroksen toteuttamisesta.

Minttu Jaakkola (kuva: Vilja Pursiainen)

Doing things together is vital to the well-being of humans as well as the planet

In 2021, a year characterised by uncertainties, community spirit and cooperation were emphasised in the foundation’s operations.

Exactly one year ago, we were peeking ahead to 2021 with optimism. Against all expectations, the much anticipated “new normal” turned out to be another pandemic year coloured by uncertainties. However, life must be lived now, and the ecological crisis won’t wait for the pandemic to recede.

Our foundation’s three-person team invested in supporting the environmental researchers and operators starting from the grant application period all the way to the end of the funded project. Especially memorable were the feedback discussions with the applicants who did not receive the grant. The applicants’ gratitude about the feedback was clearly conveyed during the call, and this reaffirmed our insight that giving feedback is a crucial part of supporting the researchers and, thereby, the foundation’s work in which we want to invest. We offered the foundation’s grantees diverse training and support throughout the year. It was a pleasure to notice that our grantees feel that the Nessling Foundation is an important community for them. We share this feeling!

“Cooperation and doing things together are not just means of boosting the impact of work, but are fundamental to the well-being of our species.”

Together with our partners, we made major efforts to engage more and more individuals and organisations in building an ecologically sustainable future. We brought together hundreds of global operators to the Soil at Risk symposium to listen to the researchers, businesses, farmers and decision-makers introducing their solutions on how to safeguard the soil for future generations. We launched the Blue Globe (Sininen pallo) award to remind the general public about the scientific and technological work performed to solve the ecological crisis. In the Puistokatu 4 project, we built a community to outline visions about a future that fits within the scope of our planetary boundaries.

All these achievements remind us that succeeding together is the highest level of success. We would like to warmly thank our partners the Forum for Environmental Information, the Baltic Sea Action Group, the Kone Foundation, the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation, the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland, Tvärminne Zoological Station and many more!

Our work in 2021 highlighted the lesson that has became apparent for everyone during the pandemic. We cannot survive here alone. Cooperation and doing things together are not just means of boosting the impact of work, but are fundamental to the well-being of our species. At the foundation, we want to strengthen our efforts in building togetherness and cooperation between environmental researchers and other operators, as the sense of belonging increases caring and hope, which are urgently needed in the times in which we live and in building an ecologically sustainable future.

Minttu Jaakkolan allekirjoitus.

Research Director of the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation

Our grantees promote the implementation of the sustainability transformation

The Nessling Foundation seeks for systemic solutions for an ecologically sustainable future. This mission served as the guiding principle of the 2021 grant call, while choosing the projects that would receive funding from among the 315 applications submitted in the general grant call. The foundation granted funding to 24 projects: 12 of these were doctoral thesis projects, six were post doc projects and six were research knowledge implementation projects. The total grant sum was EUR 2,235,472. The grants are long-term, we offer up to four years of funding to doctoral researchers.

In our view, the list of funded projects showcases exceptionally well the myriad ways of understanding and steering the sustainability transformation through research. Amidst this transformation, we need to understand both the functioning of natural systems and the role of humanity and the structures created by humans – technology, instruments and the economy.

This year, we were particularly pleased with the large number of international grant recipients. This shows how globally interlinked the research topics are and reminds us that building an ecologically sustainable future requires, first and foremost, many different perspectives and cooperation.

Our new grantees focus on, for example, these kinds of themes:

How to improve social sustainability impacts related to the production of various vehicle battery materials? How can vegetated roofs and facades help in harnessing urban stormwaters caused by global warming? How to reach out to the youth in ecological matters?

Awarded grants by type:

Totalling: 2 235 472 €

Awarded grants by field:

Total amount of grants: 24 kpl

Our new grant recipients are researching…

Long Xie envisages a future cityscape with vegetated facades

Long Xie studies how urban stormwaters could be harnessed with the help of vegetated roofs and facades. These ecosystem services can also provide on-site stormwater management.

Read more
Johannes ja Vilma nojaavat toisiinsa selät vastakkain

Johannes Roviomaa and Vilma Rimpelä combine science and art across the spectrum of life

Media professionals Johannes Roviomaa and Vilma Rimpelä, RARE Media ant the Arctic Centre (University of Lapland) have united forces to make art.

Read more

Anni Orola wants to promote the electrification of transportation in a sustainable way

Our new grantee Anni Orola’s research seeks to identify and improve the social sustainability impacts related to the production of various vehicle battery materials.

Read more

For us, reseach is participating

We supported our researchers from grant call to final reports

We personally help and spar applicants during our application period and provide personal feedback to those not receiving the grant. We encourage and train the grantees to adopt an active and impactful research culture, which includes societal debate and communication. In 2021, we guided our researchers in writing blog texts and organised several training sessions: a research interaction training and four study circles together with Kone Foundation, a virtual research pitching training and a matching event for researchers and journalists in the National Congress of Science Communication together with the Finnish Association of Science Editors and Journalists and the Committee for Public Information

Impressive numbers

Research results on the researcher’s desk or in research publications do not move themselves into society as building blocks for a future. At the foundation, we use different methods to encourage our researchers to adopt an active research culture, in other words, a researcher career integrating communications and interaction as a vital part of the researcher’s work. The foundation also asks the researchers to report their societal interaction in addition to their research publications. The reports provide assurances that the researchers funded by the foundation have adopted an active role in society. The graph shows the research publications published in 2021 reported by 41 researchers as well as other work introducing research in society.

Scientific publications and other type of societal impact

Other type of societal impact includes:

We collaborate with other foundations in funding projects that protect biodiversity and the climate

Outside the call for grant applications, our foundation supports projects that require a rapid response. In 2021, the foundation continues to co-fund three topical projects whose purpose is to support the strengthening of biodiversity and carbon sinks, and to understand the link between climate change and the functioning of ecosystems.

Carbon Action and TWINWIN

Snowchange cooperative’s landscape rewilding programme restores run-down natural habitats

Ari Parviainen ja Lauri Hämäläinen seisovat talvisessa maisemassa lapioiden kera
Talvinuottausta Puruvedellä.: Hummonselkä: Ari Parviainen ja Lauri Hämäläinen.

Longitudinal monitoring of the dry meadow network in the åland islands

We make encounters and co-operation possible

We enabled the transfer of research information to decision making.

Together with the Kone Foundation, we are co-funding the Forum for Environmental Information established in 2010 to strengthen the flow of information and dialogue between researchers and decision makers. In 2021 the FEI organised, among other things, 8 public events on topical environmental issues and two events for a specific working group.

We awarded pioneers of the food revolution

Nutrition plays a key role in solving the environmental crisis. Finnish plant based protein developers Reetta Kivelä, Maija Itkonen, Zhong-Qing Jiang, Leena Saarinen and Tarja Ollila were awarded with the first Sininen pallo Environmental Prize.

This year’s award focused especially on the winners’ aim to affect both climate change and biodiversity loss. The altogether 100 000 euro award can be given to any Finnish organization, company, NGO, research group or private citizen regardless of the language of their work who create scalable solutions for solving the ecological crisis currently threatening us all. The prize is awarded by the Tiina and Antti Herlin foundation, the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation and the scholarly society Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland SLS.

We encouraged encounters and information sharing at the nessling nest

The communal Nessling Nest workspace is located right next to our office. In 2021, the space was used as a workplace regularly or occasionally by around 20 researchers or other actors working in environmental protection. During the nationwide remote work recommendations, nest-users organised online morning coffees to exchange and discuss ideas.

We brought together the knowledge and actors for better soil health

The Soil at Risk symposium was organized 30.6.2021 as a virtual conference in Helsinki. It brought together a wide variety of research and practical information on protecting agricultural soil. The symposium invited researchers, farmers, businesses and decision-makers to answer vital questions together: How do we safeguard the soil for future generations? What kind of cultivation practices for soil regeneration are needed?

The symposium was co-organised by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, the Baltic Sea Action Group and the Forum for Environmental Information. You can watch the recordings of the symposium here.

We created room for sustainable conversation and understanding

In cooperation with the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation, we built the Puistokatu 4 project which aims to break down environmental discourse silos and catalyse sustainability transformation by transforming thoughts into action. Currently, the project activities take place online, as the villa at Puistokatu 4 is under renovation: the project has its own website and active social media channels. The online operations were boosted with five Friendly Demonstration discussions recorded as podcasts in which well-known people engage in a dialogue on a good life and future worth striving for.

We connected doctors and companies

We participated in the Post Docs in Companies cooperation programme with ten other foundations. The programme aims to promote the employment of doctors in companies and to improve the ability of Finnish business to reform itself in a long-term and ambitious manner. In 2021, we funded two doctors in the programme.

Cooperation and doing things together are fundamental to the well-being of our species.