Instructions for making a science-based action project application 

The Nessling Foundation offers funding for active researchers and actors that enable or support sustainability transformation that protects natural systems. Action project funding is intended for year-long projects that are based on science. Project funding can be applied for during the general grant call in the autumn. Before submitting an application, please carefully read the instructions and criteria provided below.

To the instructions for doctoral thesis and postdoc projects
To the General grant call home page

Please review the following criteria first

Science-based action projects should aim for societal impact. The impact of the project must be on Finnish society. Therefore, the project team must include a Finnish participant or organisation, and the project’s stakeholders or target groups must also include at least one Finnish entity. We provide project grants for action projects for a maximum of one year. The same party can apply for and receive funding for action projects more than once. A condition is that the final report of the previous project has been submitted and processed by us. In the case of such applicants, not only will the new application be evaluated, but also the success of the previous project or projects implemented with Nessling Foundation funding. 

Submit your application using the Nesslink system

The grant application is prepared using the Nesslink system. The application form will be available in Nesslink from the start date of the application period, which in 2024 is Monday, 12 August. The applicant shall always be the project leader responsible for the project (e.g. logs into the application system and prepares the application). An application can be made as an individual, working group, or organisation. Choose which group you belong to during the registration phase. 

Applying as an individual applicant

Apply as an individual applicant if you are working on the project alone and seeking a personal grant. An individual applying for a grant must register on Nesslink and prepare the application. The applicant is also the project leader.  

The Nessling Foundation automatically reports grants awarded to individuals to the tax authorities annually. The grant recipient is responsible for verifying and correcting their information on their tax return. Additional information on the taxation of grants can be obtained from the tax authorities. 

We can pay a personal grant to an individual working on the project. Additionally, you can apply for funding for expenses. Expense allowance is paid into the bank account of the organisation (e.g. a university or other project implementation site) if the individual has an affiliation with that organisation. If the applicant is not affiliated with any organisation, the grant recipient must open a separate bank account for managing expenses once the grant is confirmed. In this case, the grant recipient has responsibility for bookkeeping in accordance with standard accounting practices for project expenses. Expense accounting is reported to the Nessling Foundation in conjunction with the final report. 

Applying as a working group

Apply as a working group if the project involves multiple individuals who are each seeking a personal grant. The project leader must register on Nesslink and prepare the application on behalf of the working group. The project leader receives a personal username and password for the system and is responsible for its use with these identifiers. Working groups may decide internally about sharing the username among multiple users securely. 

The Nessling Foundation automatically reports grants awarded to individuals to the tax authorities annually. The grant recipient is responsible for verifying and correcting their information on their tax return. Additional information on the taxation of grants can be obtained from the tax authorities.  

Personal grants can be paid to members of the working group. Additionally, you can apply for funding for expenses. Expense allowance is paid into the bank account of the organisation (e.g. a university or other project implementation site) if the project leader has an affiliation with that organisation. If the project leader is not affiliated with any organisation, they must open a separate bank account for managing expenses once the grant award is confirmed. In this case, they have responsibility for bookkeeping in accordance with standard accounting practices for project expenses. Expense accounting is reported to the Nessling Foundation in conjunction with the final report. 

Upon registration, the personal details of everyone working on the project must be filled in on the application form. Please note that this has to be done before creating an application. Once you have created an application, you cannot alter the the group (members’ names or the number of group members).

If the personal details are incomplete, we cannot disburse the grant, nor can we make the necessary individual reporting to the tax authorities.  

Applying as an organisational applicant

The applicant organisation can be an association, municipality, foundation or company. The project leader must register on Nesslink and prepare the application on behalf of the organisation. The project leader receives a personal username and password for the system and is responsible for its use with these identifiers. Working groups may decide internally about sharing the username among multiple users securely. The business ID of the organisation is a mandatory piece of information required at the time of registration. 

Organisational applicants can apply for funding for the salary grants of those working on the project, but not for personal grants. 

If the project receives funding, we will pay it in full to the organisation’s bank account, and the organisation is responsible for the statutory accounting and payment of salaries. 

Please note that the tax guidelines for grants differ between businesses and non-profit organisations. For more information, you can consult the tax authorities. 

Filling out the application

Regardless of the type of applicant, the application form requires the contact details of the project leader, key parties implementing the project, project information and objectives, risk assessment, and budget. The form also allows for the submission of a reference request to a chosen person giving a reference. 

The mandatory attachments of the application are project plan, communications and interaction plan, CV or portfolio from the project leader and others applying for funding from the Nessling Foundation and commitment form signed by the project implementation site. Please note that the application cannot be submitted without a signed commitment form. Download the template for the commitment form here.

You may submit your application in either Finnish or English. All attachments may also be prepared in Finnish or English. The only exceptions are the Project title and Project summary fields on the application form – these are to be given in both Finnish and English as we use this information in our communications if funding is granted for the project.  

The system allows you to save and edit an unfinished application. It will guide you forward and provide instructions. We only consider applications that are received through Nesslink by the deadline. 

How to fill in the application form

Below, you find instructions for completing the application form fields in the order in which they appear in the form. 

Applicant

The applicant shall always be the project leader responsible for the project. Each applicant may submit only one application during the call. We do not grant funding for a new project if the applicant currently has an ongoing project funded by the Nessling Foundation. The same entity can apply for and receive funding for action projects more than once. A condition is that the final report of the previous project has been submitted and processed by us.  

On the application form, fill in the project leader’s details and title or academic degree as well as project implementation site and a brief introduction of the applicant. Additionally, you can choose the language in which you wish to communicate with the Nessling Foundation.  

Project details

On the application form, enter the project title in both Finnish and English, and the estimated duration of the project. Additionally, select the project’s field of research from the following options: 

  • Humanities 
  • Business and Administration/Economics 
  • Education  
  • Natural sciences 
  • Social sciences   
  • Law 
  • Technology   
  • Health sciences 
  • Multidisciplinary 
  • Sustainability science 
  • Other, please specify 

Natural systems to which the project is connected

The Nessling Foundation offers funding for projects and researchers that enable or support sustainability transformation that protects natural systems. Natural systems are systems formed by other species and their habitats. These systems support all life, including human societies. Natural systems are threatened by the crossing of planetary boundaries. Read more about the planetary boundaries from Stockholm Resilience Center.  

In this section of the application, select the main planetary boundary to which your project relates. If desired, you can also select additional planetary boundaries that the project is connected to.  

The planetary boundaries to choose from are 

  • Climate change  
  • Loss of biosphere integrity 
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans  
  • Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle    
  • Land system change  
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading  
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion   
  • Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities   
  • Ocean acidification 

Socio-ecological systems to which the project is connected

During sustainability transformation, society as a whole and all of its socio-ecological systems undergo a transition. Natural systems, culture, the economy, energy solutions, food systems, cities and the well-being and functioning of citizens are undergoing a simultaneous transformation. Read more about socio-ecological systems in the Global Sustainable Development Report (2019) and on the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development website.  

In this section of the application, select the main socio-ecological system to which your project relates. If desired, you can also select other socio-ecological systems to which your project relates. 

The socio-ecological systems to choose from are  

  • Human wellbeing and capabilities   
  • Sustainable and just economies   
  • Food systems and nutrition patterns   
  • Energy decarbonisation and access   
  • Urban and peri-urban development   
  • Global environmental commons 

Brief summary of the project

In this section, provide a general overview of what the project entails and what the objectives are. This will be published on the Nessling Foundation’s website if funding is granted for the project. Maximum length 1000 characters. The summary is also requested in Finnish.  

Project objectives in brief and general terms 

In this section, describe the main objectives of the project and what the project aims to achieve. Maximum length 1500 characters. 

The project’s connection to promoting sustainability transformation and securing natural systems

In this section, describe how the project contributes to a sustainability transformation that protects natural systems. You can concretise this by, for example, reflecting on the role of your project in changing socio-ecological systems or in securing planetary boundaries. In addition, please describe the societal significance and scalability of the results attained in the project. The Nessling Foundation pays particular attention to this aspect when making funding decisions. Maximum length 6000 characters.  

Risk assessment

The maximum length of the risk assessment is 2500 characters. The risk assessment can be in free form and the following questions can be used as a guide:   

  • What internal factors of the project could slow down or prevent the achievement of the project’s objectives? How are these risks being mitigated?    
  • What external factors could slow down or prevent the achievement of the project’s objectives? How are these risks being mitigated?  

References

References are an optional part of the application. You may choose a potential reference source yourself, and you may have up to two of them. The system will automatically send a request for a reference. Make sure that the email address of the person giving the reference is correct. The request for reference cannot be delivered if the email address is incorrect. The references must be submitted within two weeks after the closing of the application period.  

Budget

Funding can be applied for a maximum period of one year. The amount of the grant is EUR 50,000–100,000 per project. We can also fund co-financed projects. 

On the Budget page of the application, enter the total amount of funding applied for from the Nessling Foundation and over how many years the expenses are distributed. Then, specify the costs for each year. When preparing a budget for a multi-year project, take into account the annual variations and moderation.  

Please report also all grants received during the preceding three years and any pending grant applications intended for the same purpose.  

Costs breakdown

In this section, specify in detail the purpose and object of funds sought for personal grant, salary grant, travel, analytical services, equipment and other research-related tools, communications and interaction and any other expenses. Please note that it is not possible to include the purchase of a standard laptop or office space in the project budget. Please also note that no daily allowances can be paid for travel grants.  

If you are applying for funding for a project that is part of a larger whole and has more than one funder, please also provide a description of the total funding for the project. If the space is too small for this, you may add the total funding of the co-financed projects as an attachment to the application.  

Salary grants

In this section, enter the salary, commission or compensation costs you are applying for the project. When calculating salary costs, take into account statutory social security, pension, and insurance contributions. Employees are not employed by the Nessling Foundation; the employer is the organisation, the grant recipient, or another party implementing the project. 

The Nessling Foundation Travel Guidance

When planning and budgeting travel expenses, applicants must observe the Nessling Foundation’s travel guidance.  

Overheads

We only pay overheads to research organisations. If the project is implemented in a research organisation, check whether your organisation requires an overhead share as it will not be granted retrospectively. Calculate the overhead share in the budget table of the application in its own section. The share of overhead costs may not exceed 15 per cent of the project costs other than the grant. 

Part-time working and working alongside the grant

A person working with a personal grant in the project may have a part-time employment contract with a research organisation up to 20 percent. You may also work part-time with the grant and receive, for example, only 80 percent of it. 

Attachments

Submit all attachments in pdf format. The maximum size of one file is 10 MB.  

The mandatory attachments of the application are:    

Project plan

The maximum length of the plan is two pages (line spacing 1, font size at least 10). Longer plans are not considered. One additional page for references or a bibliography may be added to this, i.e. these are excluded from the two-page limit. You can only download one pdf attachment with a maximum size of 10 MT.  

Science-based action projects are expected to have societal impact. These projects should attach a project plan to their application, demonstrating this impact. We use the information in the plan as the primary basis for making funding decisions.  

The plan must clearly address at least the following questions. You may for example create subheadings in the plan according to these: 

  • What scientific knowledge base related to sustainability transformation does the project build upon, and how is research utilized and/or disseminated in the project? 
  • How do you know that the objectives of the project have been achieved? 
  • What are the desired impacts of the project, and who are the target groups affected by it? What concrete means are used to reach these target groups? 
  • Who are the collaborators in the project and why (i.e. the stakeholders or stakeholder groups of the project)? What concrete means are used to work with the stakeholders? 
  • The timeline for implementing the project and the key phases of the project scheduled 
  • Possible connections to other projects 

If you are applying for funding for a project that is part of a larger whole and has more than one funder, please also provide a description of the total funding for the project. Alternatively, the total funding of the project may be presented in a separate, clearly labelled attachment if the details do not fit within the maximum length of two pages.  

Communications and interaction plan

The aim of the communications and interaction carried out during the project is to increase the impact of the project. When assessing applications and making their decision, the evaluators pay particular attention to the quality and realism of the communications and interaction plan.  

If your project is a communication project or inherently involves a lot of communication, you can apply this communication and interaction plan guideline in the way you see best. For example, you can consider which parts of the project plan are better suited to be included in the main project plan and which parts in the communication and interaction plan. Try to avoid unnecessary repetition so that the evaluators get the best possible overall understanding of your project. 

For instance, if you are applying for funding to create some kind of (artistic) work (book, theater performance, documentary film, multimedia presentation, website, or similar), you can describe in the communication and interaction plan how you will guide the audience to your work, essentially creating a marketing plan. 

The Nessling Foundation not only encourages communications and interaction, but also supports projects in various ways in these areas. For instance, we organise training sessions and provide sparring for grantees on the subject.  

By communications, we mean all the communication actions that are carried out during and after the project. Communications may include, for example, writing and publishing general-interest articles on different platforms, media cooperation and giving interviews, opinion articles, social media activity, speeches at public events or policy briefs. The communications plan does not need to include scientific publications possibly produced during the project. Instead, it is essential to describe the communications carried out on the basis of the results of the project.  

By interaction, we primarily mean cooperation with the various stakeholders of the project. We recommend that you work closely with the stakeholders throughout the entire project. There are many different ways of working with stakeholders. These include, for example, workshops, training, school visits, bilateral meetings with researchers, landowners, NGOs, companies, policymakers or officials, or even campaigning at a street event. The most important thing is that you identify the key stakeholders in your own project and pay attention to how to work with them.  

A good communications and interaction plan can be prepared in many ways. The most important thing is that your plan supports your work and meets the objectives of your project.  

The format and layout of the communications and interaction plan can be freely determined. The attachment must be submitted in pdf format and its maximum size is 10 MB. The maximum length of the plan is 1 page. The plan must be easy to read, so avoid for example reducing the font size too much.  

In previous years, we have read excellent communications and interaction plans provided in the form of free text, tables, thought maps or bulleted lists. Structured and relevant content is more important than the format. We recommend including a schedule or timeline in the plan, which outlines the stages of the project where communication and/or interaction are essential.  

We may grant funding for communication expenses related to the project. These funds can be used, for example, to purchase visualisations or layout assistance from a graphic designer, organise an event, or hire translation services. Carefully consider any potential outsourcing costs for communication during the application phase and record them in the budget table of the application.  

When creating your communications and interaction plan, you may find the following questions helpful:  

  • What kind of change do you want to achieve with your project and how do communications and interaction contribute to this change?  
  • What is the societal relevance of your project and how do communications and interaction support it?  
  • How does your project contribute to a sustainability transformation that protects natural systems and how do communications and interaction support this?  
  • Who are the key stakeholders in the project and what means are used to interact with them?  
  • What means are used to communicate the project during the project and after the results have been published?  

For further help with identifying stakeholders and planning communications and interaction, see for example the Science communication recommendations by the Committee for Public Information, the Researcher’s Handbook on Science-for-Policy by the The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, the From science to decision-making online course, the Biodiversa Stakeholder Engagement Handbook and the book Tutkimuksesta toimintaan (Koskinen, Ruuska, Suni, 2018; in Finnish).

CV and list of publications

Attach CVs or portfolios from the project leader and others applying for funding from the Nessling Foundation. These may be in either Finnish or English. You can only download pdf attachments with a maximum size of 10 MT.  

Commitment form signed by the project implementation site and the applicant  

Please note that the application cannot be submitted without the signed commitment form. The attachment should be in jpeg, jpg, or pdf format. You can upload a maximum of two files, each up to 10 MB in size. The template for the commitment form can be downloaded from here.