Research Funding System in Estonia

Leaving Europe, Working in Europe | Research funding opportunities | Estonia

Updated in January 2018.

Research financing in Estonia mainly comes from the state budget (baseline funding, research funding (grants)), companies (large entreprises) and foreign funds (EU structural funds, Horizon 2020 etc).

National funding is organised mainly by the Estonian Research Council but also by sectoral ministries. National funding instruments are:

PhD studies

Doctoral students are considered as students completing their highest level of studies. PhD sudents can participate in research projects through above mentioned means.

Higher education and R&D funding in Estonia

See more videos about research landscape in Estonia here


Baseline funding has the purpose of financing R&D institutions in order to support the development objectives of R&D institutions. It is aimed for co-financing international and local projects, also between academia and industry, opening new fields of research and investing in infrastructure. It is a formula-based annual allocation from the state budget.

Personal research funding is awarded to individuals and research teams on a competitive basis. The grants are meant for high level research and development projects of persons or research groups working in research and development institutions.

Personal research funding comprises three categories of grants corresponding to different levels of research career:

  • postdoctoral research grant - is a grant aimed at supporting the launch of a research career of the people with a doctoral degree obtained from an Estonian university at a foreign R&D institutions or among highly qualified research groups (outgoing grant; for incoming postdoctoral grants please see Mobility programmes below).
  • start-up research grant - to launch independent research career at an Estonian R&D institution, to set up their research group, and to contribute to educating the next generation of researchers (incl. doctoral students).
  • team grant - to support researchers in continuing their research career at an Estonian R&D institution, ensuring high-quality research, leading a strong research group, and educating the next generation of researchers (incl. doctoral students).

Personal research funding is organized by the Estonian Research Council and comes from the state budget. Project applications are evaluated by expert commissions and approved by the Estonian Research Council. Application for funding is ogranised through the Estonian Research Information System (ETIS).

National R&D programmes are supported by the government and funded from the state budget. These programmes support R&D in limited but important domains such as the Estonian language, culture, history, folklore and language technology.

Applied research funding aims to find solutions to practical problems within a relatively short period of time. Projects funded from the EU Regional Development Fund.
NUTIKAS - applied research in the areas of smart specialisation and based on the needs of private enterprises
RITA - programme supported by the European Regional Development Fund that aims to increase the role of the state in the strategic managing of research and the capabilities of R&D institutions in carrying out socially relevant research.

Centres of excellence are supported by base funding and the European Regional Development fund. Centres of Excellence are formed from research teams of one or several R&D institutions and their aim is to support high-level research, thus creating preconditions for the improved cooperation and competitiveness of Estonian research in the European Research Area and to increase the participation and success of Estonia in the EU research framework programme Horizon 2020.

Doctoral Schools are funded by the EU Regional Development Fund. Their general purpose is to enhance the efficiency and quality of doctoral studies and to assure accordance with needs of labour market. Doctoral schools support organisation of various events, research projects, intersectoral mobility and PhD studens' mobility. 

Infrastructure expenses of a public R&D institution, which are not covered from other funding instruments, can be covered from the state budget through the ministry under whose area of government the research and development institution belongs. Investments are planned based on a long-term planning tool - the national research infrastructure roadmap.

Through Enterprise Estonia and its sub-units, the Ministry of Economic Affairs finances R&D programmes that involve product development, co-operation of academic sector institutions with enterprises and entrepreneurs, and technology programmes for priority areas. Enterprise Estonia provides support for new companies and supports research and development activities of already active companies, NGOs and R&D institutions.

Mobility programmes are meant to support mobility of researchers and/or PhD students to and from Estonia. Funding for the programmes comes from the state budged and/or is supported by the EU Regional Development Fund. Aims of the programmes are slightly different.

Kristjan Jaak Scholarships are meant to strenghten internationalisation of Estonian HEIs and increase employability of their graduates. It is a governmental programme initiated by the Archimedes foundation and the Ministry of Education and Research. The programme encompasses three categories:
1. Degree studies abroad
2. Study period abroad
3. Short-time visits

Dora Plus programme aims to increase visibility and attractiveness of Estonia as a destination for studying and research and encourage young researchers to participate in international cooperation projects. It is a governemental programme supported by the EU Regional Development Fund and it encompasses four actions:
Action 1: Study and research-related outgoing mobility
Action 2: Study and research-related incoming mobility
Action 3: Organisation of summer and winter schools
Action 4: Marketing of study and employment opportunities in Estonia

Mobilitas Pluss Programme acts in the name of Internationalisation of research and support for mobility and the next generation. It supports researchers' mobility by:
1. post-doctoral grants
2. returning researcher grants
3. top researcher grants
4. support for study visits and training abroad

PhD studies in Estonia nominal lenght is 4 years. Doctoral students are considered as students completing their highest level of studies. There is no tuition fee if you have been accepted on the basis of quality competition. A monthly allowance of (660 euros in 2018) will be granted on specific terms. Visiting PhD students can apply for the Dora Plus or Erasmus+ scholarships. See leaflet about PhD studies and Post-doc in Estonia. Find a PhD programme in the Estonian Doctoral Programme Database.


See also:

"Research Funding in Estonia" - A comprehensive booklet of Estonian research funding (pdf)

Estonian Research Council - Personal and post-doctoral research funding

Estonian Research Council - Moblility funding

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research - National R&D Programmes

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research - Research and Development

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research - Base funding and centres of excellence

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research - Doctoral schools

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research - Study allowances and state grants

Estonian Research Council - Infrastructure funding

Enterprise Estonia

Estonian Research Information System (ETIS)