How does Nessling Foundation select projects for funding?

We allocate approximately EUR 2–3 million annually for the general grant call. We award funding for doctoral thesis research, post doc research and the implementation of scientific knowledge. The Science and Executive Director of the Foundation, committee of experts and the governing board of the Foundation select projects for funding.

Nessling Foundation’s general call is open every autumn. During the last seven years, Nessling Foundation has received approximately 340 applications each year. In 2023, the Foundation received 393 applications. In general, the Foundation is able to award funding for less than 10 % of the applicants.

The assessment process for applications lasts two months in general

The entire application assessment process takes approximately two months. Three parties are involved in the assessment process: the Science and Executive Director of the Foundation, a ten-person expert committee representing different research fields, and the Foundation’s governing board. The Science and Executive Director presents the expert committee’s assessment to the governing board on the basis of which the board makes the final decision on which projects will be funded.

Assessment process

  1. After the application period has ended, the Science and Executive Director reads all the received applications. They will check that all the applications fall within the aim of research or work supported by the Foundation and that they are formally correct. This means that all the required sections have been filled in, the budget has been drafted correctly, mandatory attachments are included and instructions have been followed.

    If the application is contrary to the criteria or the instructions, the Science and Executive Director will reject the application. The Science and Executive Director will appoint two reviewers from the expert committee for each eligible application. Prior to submitting the applications to the reviewers, the Science and Executive Director conducts a pre-examination to check for any disqualifications of the reviewer regarding the applicant or the project. The reviewers themselves must also look for any possible disqualifications prior to assessing the application.
  2. The members of the expert committee do their evaluating duties alongside their own job. Each member of the expert committee will receive approximately 70–90 applications to assess, depending on the overall number of received applications. They will assess the applications within a period of four weeks. The reviewers evaluate the applications according to the criteria listed in the application instructions. They rate each application on a scale from 1–5, where 1 is the lowest and 5 the highest rating.
  3. The expert committee and the Science and Executive Director convene for a three-day meeting, during which they discuss the applications that received a rating of 5 from at least one reviewer. The applications that received a rating of 1–3 will be moved directly into the “not funded” basket. A typical problem with these kinds of applications is that they do not match the Foundation’s purpose or the reviewers have deemed them to be contrary to the instructions or criteria.

    Aside from the appointed reviewers who have read the application, other reviewers participating in the meeting are also able to express their views on the application during the discussion, which may raise or lower the overall view of the project. After the discussion, the application is then moved to the “funded” or “not funded” basket, or into the “maybe funded” basket to await until all the other applications have been reviewed. At the end of the three-day meeting, the ratio of the sum reserved for the grants to the number of projects in the “funded” basket is estimated to determine how many projects can still be funded.

    In the event that the reserved funds exceed the number of projects in the “funded” basket, the expert committee can then vote on whether any of the projects in the “maybe funded” basket should be moved to the “funded” basket. The rest of the projects in the “maybe funded” basket will be held in reserve.
  4. After the expert committee’s meeting, the chairperson of the committee and the Science and Executive Director present the decisions of the meeting to the governing board’s research committee that comprises of three members from Nessling Foundation’s governing board. At this stage, the members of the research committee can still comment on the projects.
  5. The Science and Executive Director prepares a summary of the projects proposed for funding based on the meetings of the expert committee and research committee, which is presented at the governing board’s grant meeting.
  6. The funded projects are announced after the grant meeting, usually after mid-November. Information on all the funded projects can be found on the Nessling Foundation’s website. The funded projects are announced separately through the Foundation’s channels each year.

Applicants can request feedback on their applications once the funded projects have been made public. The feedback is based on the expert committee’s meeting notes regarding the application. The feedback will be delivered by phone after the applicant has made an appointment. The Foundation does not have the resources to prepare written feedback on projects that did not receive funding.

The feedback appointment can be made by using the booking calendar at Nessling Foundation’s website. The time slots on the calendar are opened for booking and announced separately each year.

Tips for drafting an application

The competition over research funding is constantly tightening. A project might be innovative, of high scientific quality and fulfill all of the criteria that our Foundation has set and still be left without funding simply due to the high number of excellent applicants that far exceeds the funds that we can award. However, with these tips you can increase your project’s chances of receiving funding.

  • Examine carefully what kind of research and work Nessling Foundation supports. The Foundation can only award funding for purposes listed in its bylaws. Currently, we are focusing our funding on applications that participate in or facilitate sustainability transformation to protect natural systems.
  • Make sure that both your project and application are tailored specifically to Nessling Foundation. Do not copy any applications that you have sent to other financiers. If the purpose of the Foundation does not align with your project, you should not try to make it seem as if your application fits the purpose.
  • Read our instructions for grant applicants through carefully and follow them.
  • Read our criteria for grants through carefully and make sure that your project meets the criteria.
  • Carefully draft your project communications and interaction plan. Our reviewers pay special attention to this part of the application.
  • We arrange sparring for grant applicants during the autumn while the general grant call is open. We warmly recommend that you book a time for sparring. We only have a limited number of slots available, and we announce the opening of the booking calendar separately each year.
  • We do not accept any applications that have been sent after the application period has ended, regardless of the reason for the delay. As such, you should submit your application well in advance before the application period’s deadline.

Picture: Judith Black