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University of Helsinki coronavirus campaign quickly draws donations

The university's call-out resulted in 170,000 euros of donations in the first week, mostly from first-time donors.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the need for funding at Finnish universities. Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

Following a campaign aimed at boosting research funding in order to solve the coronavirus crisis, the University of Helsinki has attracted 500 new donors in less than a month with an online campaign (siirryt toiseen palveluun) which has already raised some 170,000 euros.

The majority of donors are private individuals who wish to support science in a concrete way that contributes towards resolving the crisis.

The institution began the campaign last month with a web page informing potential donors of the work being carried out by its researchers, accompanied by a call for donations.

"Among the key lines of research are identifying antibodies to prevent and treat the disease, investigating opportunities in drug treatment and developing tests," the organisers said in a statement.

In its social media channels, the university emphasised the important role research can play in resolving the coronavirus crisis, and the campaign yielded an immediate response when donations of 170,000 euros were received within the first week. The university also reported receiving offers of help from alumni and other individuals to help raise funds and awareness.

"The coronavirus has definitely brought in new donors. The majority of them are supporting the university for the first time" Pia Dolivo, Head of Public Relations at the University of Helsinki, told Yle. "People's desire to help makes them happy and proud, whether it's ten or ten thousand."

Firms and foundations respond to funding need

As the need for research suddenly increased due to the coronavirus pandemic, so did the need for funding.

The reform of the university sector in Finland 20 years ago significantly cut university budgets and the funding gap is usually plugged by the support of the EU, the Academy of Finland and other donors which have become vital for universities. The importance of foundations, partner companies and private donors has also become increasingly important.

Foundations in particular have increased their support for universities during the coronavirus crisis. Four Finnish foundations joined forces earlier this week and distributed 800,000 euros for ten coronavirus-based research projects at universities across Finland.

Keijo Hämäläinen, Rector of the University of Jyväskylä, welcomed the different funding initiatives and said they signified the importance of science and research both in responding to the crisis and in finding ways to build society after it's over.

"It feels good that researchers are listened to and asked for information. We willingly want to share information as well," Hämäläinen told Yle.

Story continues after photo.

Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have recently received funding to analyse coronavirus samples. Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

Researchers at Jyväskylä university's biological and environmental sciences department have studied the structures and transmission mechanisms of viruses for decades. The research team received a donation of 200,000 euros from insurance firm LähiTapiola to develop methods for analysing coronavirus samples, which made it possible to significantly increase capacity at the university.

Both Dolivo and Hämäläinen emphasised that the research will need funds in the future as well. The effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic will be felt for a long time and there may be other crises in the future

"Now all the help and know-how is needed. Organisations should be motivated to become better and better in a crisis situation," Hämäläinen said.