Celebrating 25 years of Estonia in COST


The history of Estonian participation in COST

Line map of Estonia

Founded in 1971, COST is Europe’s oldest intergovernmental cooperation in the field of science and technology. Estonia became the 29th member to join COST, alongside Malta and Romania, with membership being officially approved at the COST Ministerial Conference on 27 May 1997, hosted in Prague, Czech Republic.

As a widening country, Estonia has shown strong support for COST and the COST framework, notably during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union but also in more recent discussions and forums. The education system of Estonia is also notable for its high quality standards; in the 2018 OECD PISA International Study on Student Assessment, Estonia ranked first among European countries in reading, mathematics, and science.

Over the last 25 years researchers and innovators from Estonia have benefited from the many networking opportunities offered by COST Actions. Since 1997 Estonian participation in COST has grown year on year and to date 593 COST Actions have benefited from Estonian participation.

“It is wonderful to celebrate such a milestone in COST’s history and impressive to see that Estonian researchers have made over 100,000 connections with others in the R&I community thanks to their participation in COST Actions. Here’s to the next 25 years of Estonian participation!”

Prof Alain Beretz, President of the COST Association

Estonia facts and figures

Discover below a variety of facts and figures on the history of Estonian involvement and the status of Estonia in COST today.

During Horizon 2020, the involvement of Estonian researchers in COST Actions increased substantially: in 2014, Estonia was involved in 46% of COST Actions whereas by 2021, this number grew to 77% of Actions.

Of particular note, from 2016 to 2021 there were 17 confirmed successful spin-off projects with an Estonian principal investigator, with a total value of 17,658,363 Euros. One particular example is the Estonian-led Horizon 2020 project ‘Privacy-Enhancing Cryptography in Distributed Ledgers‘ which is a spin-off of COST Action ‘Cryptography for Secure Digital Interaction‘ (2014-2018).

Since 2014:

2803 Estonian participations in networking activities

120 Training Schools and Short-term Scientific Missions (STSMs) hosted in Estonia

87 meetings organised in Estonia

2,378,393 Euros provided to Estonian researchers and organisers

104,112 connections made by Estonian researchers

Estonia in COST today:

433 Management Committee and Working Group members from Estonia…

of which 119 are young researchers.

186 Actions with Estonian participation.

19 Estonian researchers in leadership positions….

of which 11 are women.

“The Estonian research community greatly respects and values COST. We have conducted several studies on the importance of COST for Estonia. Based on the answers it turned out that the most valued outcomes of COST were cooperation in the field of research (83%), improving the capacity of international cooperation (80%), and finding new partners (78%).”

Ülle Must, former COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) member and COST National Coordinator (CNC) for Estonia (2001-2018).

What does the research community have to say?

Testimonials from COST Action Chairs, Prof Alireza Fazeli and Dr Katri-Liis Lepik
Testimonials from COST Action Chairs Prof Anu Toots and Prof Mart Susi

Testimonials from Estonian researchers

What does participation in COST bring to you?

“For a PhD student or a young researcher, being involved in a COST Action network is a wonderful opportunity to communicate with other scientists around Europe. It will help to bring together many participants from different fields, such as individuals with academic and industry background. This kind of connections are definitely beneficial because it may give a research topic more practical application.

It brought many things to my career development. For example: more advanced communication skills, possibility to work in a large project, gather new information about my research topic, possibility to exchange ideas.

The main importance of COST for Estonian are new connections and the possibility to exchange novel knowledge. This will help Estonia connect more with other European scientists and institutions that may lead to new innovations.”

Jane Varul, University of Tartu, member of COST Actions ‘Improving biomedical research by automated behaviour monitoring in the animal home-cage‘ (TeaTime).

“The COST programme is different from many other programmes funded by the European Commission in the sense that COST supports networking – networking in its best sense. Unlike other programmes the aim of COST is to create a network as broad as possible. Another difference is that the membership is individual, not institutional. Therefore, it is possible to expand this network practically endlessly.”

Prof Mart Susi, Professor of Human Rights Law at Tallinn University of and Chair of COST Action ‘Global Digital Human Rights Network‘ (GDHRNet).

“The added value of COST is the opportunities to create new and expand existing research collaborations, to gain experience for presenting research results in the interdisciplinary framework, and involve young people in international networks. The projects have been supportive for the evolution of my own research ideas. For instance, the collaboration with researchers from different countries and fields has led us to the research addressing the development of new forms of working and working spaces that support the adaptation to growing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, war, political and economic tensions.”

Prof Tiiu Paas, University of Tartu, member of COST Action ‘The Geography of New Working Spaces and the Impact on the Periphery‘ (NewWorkingSpaces).

“Small countries such as Estonia are inherently benefiting from COST Actions as small and big countries have an equal representation of participants in the Management Committee. My lab has been active in several successful Actions, most recent of which was ‘Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations to prevent infectious diseases’ (AMICI), 2016-2020. In this Action I was nominated to lead one of the central tasks and was a core group member.

Most importantly, this network led to the publication of 8 joint scientific papers in my team with key participants of this Action. In addition, students and post-docs from other labs worked in my lab. My lab’s students and post-docs worked in the lab of Prof. William C. Keevil (University of Southampton, UK) during their short-term scientific missions.

Finally, my lab hosted a successful AMICI seminar in Tallinn (2017) and was active in all the annual and working group meetings of AMICI. Thus, this COST Action has been a real success story for my lab.”

Prof Anne Kahru, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology, National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics (NICPB), Tallinn, and member of COST Action ‘Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations to prevent infectious diseases’ (AMICI).

The longer I am a CNC the more I admire how well devised the COST tools are to realise the ideal of research without borders. The long history of COST proves that its tools are fulfilling the purpose that they were devised for. They have been invaluable for a small and somewhat remote country like Estonia

I am delighted that Estonian researchers have embraced COST’s opportunities. The role and meaning of COST for Estonia is demonstrated by the ever growing numbers of Estonian participants in COST Actions, the many publications that have resulted, the number of networking activities with Estonian participation.

COST is not just about research and bridging borders within the field of research. It is also about bringing together research and society, research and arts, research and business – to realise the ideal of research without borders in the broadest sense. COST Actions are also about creative encounters between academic and non-academic worlds. I always recommend to seize the opportunities that COST participation offers: to any researcher, and particularly to the younger ones. In a perfect world, each and every young researcher would have their ‘COST opportunity’.

Karin Kello, COST National Coordinator (CNC) for Estonia

Celebrating 25 years of Estonia

To celebrate, the Estonian Research Council, together with COST and the Estonian Academy of Sciences organised a dedicated event in Tallinn on 16 May 2022 to mark the 25th anniversary of Estonia’s participation in COST. Participants discussed what has been the importance of COST for Estonia, and how it has changed over time. The conference also looked back at Estonia’s participation and discussed future directions. How do COST networks contribute to collaboration between researchers and society? Could and should active participation in COST be supported better? 

More information

Dedicated website on 25 years of Estonia in COST as prepared by the Estonian Research Council

More information on Estonia as a COST Member

Fact sheet on 25 years of Estonian participation in COST

Estonian Research Council’s information on COST