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Programme funding

EUR 4 million
The main objective of the Research Programme on Future Mechanical Engineering is to strengthen existing research efforts and to open up new lines of high-quality basic research which will support ongoing R&D work in Finnish industries. The programme is chiefly oriented to innovation: the two-phase application process will sift out those projects that have the greatest potential for genuine innovation. At the same time development of research facilities at universities will be supported, which is considered essential for increasing the number of post-graduate and doctoral students in mechanical engineering and manufacturing technology and for reaching the same level as is recorded in the other technical disciplines.
Organised on a multidisciplinary basis, the research programme aims to facilitate the movement of young scientists from the theoretical world of physics, chemistry and mathematics into practical jobs in industry. The objective of the programme is to establish closer links of collaboration between theoretical and applied research and to strengthen the research culture which seeks to extract new product innovations from basic research. In addition, the aim is to promote national and international networking among individual researchers and research units.

Abstract

Background
In 1998 metal products industries accounted for 20% of Finnish exports and for 32% of the active labour force. Exports by the mechanical engineering and metal products industries are 76% compared to total exports from the electronics and electrical industry. Their workforce is twice as large, the value added of production is slightly higher, but investment in R&D is less than one-quarter of the corresponding figures in the electronics and electrical industry. Innovation in the mechanical engineering industry, together with its competitiveness and profitability, can be significantly improved by investing in basic and applied research, which will also help to create new jobs. The untapped potential is great.

There is a shortage in the industry not only of qualified workers, but also of young doctors with a researcher training. One in five university graduates should have a doctorate; half of them are needed in industry, the other half in universities to fill education and research posts. To meet the growing education needs, graduate schools have now been set up in Concurrent Engineering (Tampere University of Technology), Computational Engineering (Helsinki University of Technology - HUT), Fluid Dynamics (HUT) and Technical Mechanics (HUT).
Intelligent materials and composites together with modern telecommunications and machine intelligence are set to revolutionise the operation of modern machines and equipment. Mechanical engineering can also benefit significantly from the recent advances in mobile technologies and robotics. Interaction between humans and machines is an immensely complex process that so far has been largely neglected in research, causing various adverse effects on people's health and functional capacity, even accidents and injuries. Now that the man-machine interface has begun to attract the attention it deserves, operational reliability and safety considerations have emerged as critical strategic factors: it is not possible to reap the full benefits promised by new machines unless the human factor is taken into account.

4 Contents of the programme
The development of competitive mechanical engineering and manufacturing technologies requires investment in basic research and technical computation, design and testing. Research is divided between three stages of the product life cycle: design, manufacture and use. The disciplines involved may be specific to just one of these stages, or they may cut across all three stages.

Design
Design in mechanical engineering and manufacturing technology is based on mathematics and certain areas of physics such as mechanics, strength of materials, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and heat transfer. Information technology is an important design tool and also plays a crucial part in the control of machine operations. A basic requirement of environmentally friendly design is to have control over the environmental and cost impacts of an industrial product throughout its life cycle. This can only be achieved through improved life cycle analysis. For purposes of determining the relevant parameters of environmental impacts it is necessary to have a multidisciplinary research effort which looks at both the short-term and long-term effects of the product life cycle on the natural environment as well as on the health and well-being of humans. A special consideration in the Finnish context is the impact of the arctic climate. Finland is a pioneer in the development of icebreaker technology, ice-resistant aids to navigation and arctic seagoing vessels. New challenges are presented by the technology required in the commercial utilisation of the arctic gas and oil fields discovered in near-abroad regions.
As far as structural design is concerned a major challenge now is to further reduce the weight of machines and equipment through increased design precision and through the use of new structures and materials. Various dynamic phenomena such as noise and vibration are unwanted characteristics in most machines and most types of equipment. Noise and vibration have adverse effects on the human operator's working capacity and also adverse health effects. As structures continue to become lighter and speeds continue to grow, the control of dynamic phenomena will assume increasing importance.

A sustained development effort in mechanical engineering and manufacturing technology is also crucial to improving the competitiveness of the electronics industry. Finland is the world leader in forest and paper machine technology. In order to hold on to this position and to meet the challenges of the future, the industry will need constantly to develop more economical, lighter, more accurate and environmentally friendlier machinery. New chains of transport are also needed for forest products. The objective in the development of paper machines is to reach higher speeds and greater economy and at the same time to minimise environmental impacts.

Subdivision

Key areas of research in machine design are as follows:
- environmentally friendly design
- concurrent design
- reduction of vibration and noise
- electronics, opto-electronics and information technology applications
- new materials and structures
- man-machine interface and user-oriented design

Key areas of research in manufacturing technology are as follows:
- new manufacturing methods and materials
- machining, forming and cutting
- computational methods in manufacturing technology
- simulation, optimisation and control of networked production
- autonomous, learning production equipment and systems
- quality control methods and reliability of production systems
- working methods, environment and safety
- reducing environmental impacts

Key areas of research with respect to use are as follows:
- safety of machines and equipment and controlling adverse health effects
- man-machine interaction and interface requirements
- intelligent monitoring of machines, diagnostics and prognostics
- intensified use of machine systems and overall reliability
- reducing environmental impacts
- taking into account the requirements of the arctic environment

Implementation

The Research Programme on Future Mechanical Engineering will run for three years (2000-2003), with earmarked funds totalling FIM 20 million. In practice, projects approved for participation in the programme can be launched by the middle of the year 2000. A broadly-based steering group has been appointed to make preparations for the programme and to coordinate start-up, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Funding may be applied by individual research teams or by consortia of several teams. Projects may include foreign-based teams, but funding from the Academy of Finland is for the main part available for Finnish parties only. Funding decisions shall be based on the following application criteria:
1. Standard of scientific content
2. Compatibility with the objectives of the research programme
3. Academic competence of research team
4. Researcher training and the creation of research teams
5. Cooperation between and involvement of different disciplines
6. National and international contacts
7. Relevance and applicability of the results

Priority will be given to projects showing an innovative approach and promising major breakthroughs, which means that the risks involved in the project may be greater. Special attention will be given to the creation of research teams, long-term targets for research, and researcher training.

Applications will be processed in two phases. Because they will be reviewed by an international panel of experts, all applications and appendices shall be prepared in English. At the first application stage, plans of intent for the Research Programme on Future Mechanical Engineering shall be submitted to the Registrar's Office at the Academy of Finland by 4.15 pm on 30 November 1999. The plans of intent shall be prepared on Academy of Finland application form SA 1.0E, with the programme acronym (TUKEVA) indicated on first page. The form shall be completed according to the instructions given. However, the only appendices required are a research plan 3-4 pages in length plus a short CV and the list of publications for 1995-1999 of the responsible project leader.

The research plan must state the research objectives, the main methods employed, any links with other research as well as researcher training provided during the project. The research plan should also contain a short presentation of each research group applying for funding; these should be no longer than one page each. In the case of consortia, each partner shall complete its own application form to which is to be appended the CVs and lists of publications of the responsible leaders, but only one research plan will be prepared. This should contain a description of the individual activities of each partner as well as an account of the value added obtained from the consortium as an entity. All the application documents complete with appendices should be sent to the Academy's Registrar's Office in 15 copies, bound in identical parcels.

Having reviewed the plans of intent, the steering group will submit its proposal for a shortlist of projects which will be asked to file applications proper including a research plan. The final decision on the projects going through to this stage will be made by a selection committee consisting of members of the Academy Research Councils and appointed by the Board of the Academy of Finland. The responsible project leaders of the shortlisted projects will be informed of the committee's decision by letter no later than 15 January 2000. Projects approved for participation in the programme are expected to constitute an entity that is more than the sum of its constituent parts. Therefore the steering group may suggest that research teams narrow or readjust the focus of their project and suggest that applicants with similar research interests join forces.

Projects going through to the second phase of applications will be invited to file detailed applications, complete with all appendices in English as specified in the Academy's instructions, by 4.15 pm on 15 February 2000. The maximum length of the research plan is 10 pages. The plan should indicate the objectives of the project, its main methods, any links of cooperation with other research as well as plans for researcher training. In addition, the research plan should include a short presentation of each group applying for funding. If the application is filed in the name of a consortium, each partner shall complete its own application form, but only one research plan shall be prepared. The plan should detail the contribution of each partner to the project as well as describe the research cooperation as a whole and the value added it is expected to generate. The application of a consortium shall include a complete funding plan indicating the total funding applied for and its breakdown among the various groups of the consortium. All the application documents including appendices should be sent to the Academy's Registrar's Office in 11 copies (original and 10 sets of copies). The applications will be evaluated by a panel of international experts.

A seminar presenting the results obtained and progress of the projects will be arranged midway through the programme. A final seminar will be arranged upon completion of the programme. Projects approved for participation in the programme will report on their progress as stated in the rules of the Academy. The results of the research programme will be evaluated by a panel of international experts.

The call for proposals to this programme, this programme memorandum, application forms and the Academy Guide for Applicants can be obtained from the Academy of Finland web pages and the Academy Registrar's Office, where applications should also be returned.

Remarks

New Production Processes
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