Year 2021 in Kone Foundation

Year 2021 in Kone Foundation

Welcome to our annual report for 2021! On this page, you can find the highlights of our year and dive deeper into our activities.

Hanna Nurminen: Review to 2021

Kone Foundation’s work to enable free, multi-voiced art and research will only become more important, and we are holding onto our social, cultural and ecological responsibility, writes Hanna Nurminen, Chairperson of Kone Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

As I write this, it has been three weeks since Russia attacked Ukraine. Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukrainian territory has sparked outrage, fear and anxiety all over the world, not least in Finland. We do not know when and how the war will end, but one thing is certain: the war has changed the European community profoundly.

The anguish of the Ukrainian people has inspired people in Finland and elsewhere in Europe to offer their help on an unprecedented scale. The people fleeing their homes need immediate and tangible humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, the by-laws of Kone Foundation do not permit aid to be delivered directly to Ukraine or, for example, to refugees in Poland. The by-laws must be followed – this has been confirmed by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, which is the Foundation’s supervisory authority, as well as the Association of Finnish Foundations.

Fortunately, we can help researchers and artists who come to Finland from Ukraine. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees recently held an extraordinary meeting to grant additional funding for this purpose to the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and the University of Turku’s Scholars at Risk programme. It has also been possible to organise places for Ukrainian artists at the Saari Residence and Lauttasaari Manor residencies. In addition, we must not forget the researchers and artists who flee Russia and Belarus as their employment opportunities waste away into nothingness in these totalitarian states. We are also prepared to offer them support.

Our operating environment has, therefore, changed dramatically, and the damage wrought by the war will take a long time to fix. Kone Foundation’s work to enable free, multi-voiced art and research will only become more important, and we are holding onto our social, cultural and ecological responsibility. When we drew up our current strategy a few years ago, we decided to focus on questions of democracy and diversity during this strategy period. Our ongoing “Is Democracy Eroding?” programme is one way in which we are implementing this policy. This is Kone Foundation’s way of working towards peace.

At the start of 2021, Kone Foundation began operating with a new organisational structure based on units, and it is pleasing to see how this change has clarified and enhanced the Foundation’s activities. The Foundation’s recent rapid growth, combined with the new organisational structure, has placed new demands on the management of the Foundation. The Foundation intends to reorganise its senior management positions in 2022. One noteworthy alternative to the current operating model would be to replace the current employed manager’s model with a CEO model. This would allow for better organisation of everyday operational management and ensure a more predictable distribution of responsibility. A division of authority based on the Foundations Act would also establish clearer boundaries between the responsibilities of the board members. The Board of Trustees is studying various operating models and will use them as a basis for further planning.

I would like to thank the management and staff of Kone Foundation for their commitment, enthusiasm and good spirits, in the face of the coronavirus and the anxiety caused by war, to work towards making the world a better place. Thank you!

Hanna Nurminen
Chairperson of Kone Foundation’s Board of Trustees

Ulla Tuomarla: Kone Foundation in 2021

The new strategy has led the Foundation to consider the true meaning of freedom in research and the arts. For us, it means the intrinsic development of research and the arts; economic, political and other interests should not exert too great an influence over scientific and artistic activity, writes Ulla Tuomarla, Executive Director of Kone Foundation.

The global coronavirus pandemic left a mark on Kone Foundation’s 65th year in operation. The pandemic had a major impact on the working practices of the Foundation’s personnel, and it also influenced the granting of funding: in June 2021, we granted EUR 3.5 million in special funding to independent groups in the fields of performing and visual arts.

The special funding process took place outside our annual open application round, and it was an example of “investigative philanthropy”. One important goal of this implementation was to act quickly, as the field of performing arts, in particular, was under severe pressure due to the protracted pandemic.

Kone Foundation also embarked on a new strategy period stretching to 2025. The new strategy will see the Foundation focus more of its attention on promoting freedom in research and the arts. Highlighting the work of grantees is at the heart of the new communications and effectiveness strategy. The investment strategy has also been revised, and it now highlights sustainability.

The new strategy has led the Foundation to consider the true meaning of freedom in research and the arts. For us, it means the intrinsic development of research and the arts; economic, political and other interests should not exert too great an influence over scientific and artistic activity.

We hope we can inspire discussion of the conditions required for free art and research in Finnish society in the coming years.

Ulla Tuomarla
Executive Director of Kone Foundation

Kone Foundation’s most important objective is to make the world a better place by creating the conditions for free and multi-voiced art and research.

Illustrations: Marika Maijala

Our vision

Free research, art and culture flourish in an ecologically sustainable and socially equal Finland.

They are valuable in themselves and constantly challenge prevailing perceptions.

Research findings nourish public debate and support decision-making.

Kone Foundation is a vigilant, bold and flexible organisation that cares about its grantees and works towards building a healthy work community.

Our values

Academic and artistic freedom

Ecosocial awareness




Sense of community

Read Kone Foundation’s strategy

Kone Foundation’s grant activities in 2021

Kone Foundation awarded grants, prizes and donations totalling EUR 49.1 million.

  • In the annual autumn grant call, a total of EUR 38.2 million and 342 grants were awarded in the following categories:
    • 323 grants were awarded for new research and arts projects, totalling EUR 33,571,330
    • 16 grants were awarded in the “Language, Power and Democracy” thematic grant call, totalling EUR 4,596,300
    • Three grants were awarded in the application round for the Lauttasaari Manor residency, totalling EUR 37,950.
  • The autumn grant call attracted 6,319 applications. The award rate was 7.1% for research and 4.0% for the arts, calculated from the total number of applications.
  • In the spring, we organised a special application round for independent groups of performance and visual artists, which have suffered greatly during the coronavirus crisis. Seventeen grants were awarded for a total of EUR 3,456,000.
  • In the summer, we granted almost EUR 3 million in special funding to four operators in research and the arts whose work involves multidisciplinary cooperation. The EUR 1.8 million award received by BIOS, a research unit, was the largest single grant in the Foundation’s history.
  • Pieta Hyvärinen (now Savinotko) won the EUR 25,000 Vuoden Tiedekynä Academic Writing Award for an environmental research article titled, “Mushroom-foraging on Northern Tree Plantations: Diverse Forest Economies and the Problem of Plantationocentrism”.

Kalle Korhonen: Grant activities in 2021

Kone Foundation further expanded its grant activities in 2021. Personal grants alone amounted to approximately 660 full years of work, and there were about 1,000 individual grantees.

The researchers and artists we fund also have access to Grants+, a service that includes meeting premises, training sessions and mentoring opportunities. In 2021, we set up a new service known as the Best Practices Learning Circle, with webinars on topics such as project management, conflict resolution, hate speech and personal work management. Conducting the series online made it easier to support grantees outside the Helsinki region.

The new ‘Is Democracy Eroding?’ funding programme will go on until the end of the current strategy period (until 2025), and it is only becoming more relevant. The first thematic grant call, held in autumn, held in autumn 2021, was entitled ‘Language, Power and Democracy’, and the Foundation subsequently awarded a total of EUR 4.6 million to 16 projects.

Kalle Korhonen
Director of Funding


In 2021, we paid monthly grants for 7,897 months of work, corresponding to 658 years of work on grants.

70,6 %

of the grants awarded in autumn 2021 were multi-year grants.

46 %

Of the recipients of monthly grants, approximately 46 % lived in Helsinki, 43 % elsewhere in Finland, and 11 % lived in other countries.


The most common decade of birth for the applicants in the autumn grant call was the 1980s.

The Saari residence in 2021

The coronavirus pandemic and the renovations of the main building and the residency’s living quarters continued to affect Saari Residence’s activities in 2021.

  • In 2021, 24 artists, two researchers and seven groups of artists worked at the Saari Residence. Eight individual artists and 12 members of artist groups worked from home residencies.
  • The renovation of the Saari Residence’s main building continued throughout the year, and the Residence’s personnel worked in temporary facilities all year. The renovation is due for completion in summer 2022.
  • The Saari Residence initiated a multi-year collaborative partnership with the Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action (NAARCA).
  • The Culture Trail summer exhibition of works by Saari Residence alumni was displayed in the stunning scenery of the Mietoistenlahti bay.
  • The Summer Well event, which focuses on international residency research, was held in hybrid form in August: most of the participants attended the Saari Residence in person, while some attended remotely from as far away as Australia.
  • The Saari Residence’s community artist began the long-running Mynä-Mynä-Maa community art project, which will be carried out together with the municipality of Mynämäki. The venue is the Lizelius building in Mynämäki, which is scheduled for demolition. In summer 2022, Mynä-Mynä-Maa will be one of the events accompanying the Jukola Relay, Finland’s most important orienteering race.

Leena Kela: Year 2021 at the Saari Residence

The coronavirus pandemic and the renovations of the main building and the residency’s living quarters continued to affect the Saari Residence’s activities in 2021. Some artists spent their periods in residence at Mynämäki, while some worked from home in various parts of the world.

We provided the artists in residence with mentoring meetings and opportunities to interact via remote connections. Home residencies were also developed with the help of a service design project. The outcome of the process was a virtual and interactive Saari Residency on the Miro online platform.

The ecologically sustainable residency activities initiated at the Saari Residence will reinforce the Saari Residence’s profile as an important actor in the field of international residencies and one that is in step with the current times.

In 2021, we focused on safeguarding biodiversity in the Residence’s grounds, building the Ecocompass system and implementing a service design project to conceptualise our ecologically sustainable activities. An essential aspect of our ecological mindset is to provide nature excursions with expert guides for our artists in residence. The artists in residence have found the tours fruitful and rewarding.

Leena Kela
Residency Director


In the spring 2021 application round, the residency received 802 applications, 119 of which were group residency applications, while 683 were individual residency applications.


Applications were received from 77 countries. Most of the applications came from Finland (30 %), Germany (10 %) the UK (5 %), the USA (4.7 %) and Iran (3.7 %).


A total of EUR 268,558 was awarded in residency grants in 2021.

69 %

A study carried out in 2021 found that 69 % of the Saari Residence’s carbon footprint was due to the large-scale renovations taking place in the building.

Benjamin Abras

Benjamin Abras was one of the residents at Saari in spring 2021

“I’m a poet, contemporary artist with an interdisciplinary approach and independent researcher. At the Saari Residence, I am working on a performative documentary movie. I base the script on my new poem book Dautonic Garden and my essay Diaspora in Transe, which deal with the reverberations of the affective memories of three generations in my body, target as a black.”

Eco-social awareness guides our activities

Eco-social awareness is among Kone Foundation’s values: to us, it means social, cultural and ecological responsibility for humans, other species and the environment. Environmental responsibility manifests itself in many ways in our activities and their development – here are the highlights of 2021.

Kone Foundation donated 1 440 hectares of forest for conservation

In March 2021, Kone Foundation purchased 1,440 hectares of forest in Sanginjoki, Oulu, and immediately donated it to the Finnish state for conservation. The use of the Sanginjoki outer forest has been the single biggest nature conservation issue in the Oulu region in recent years. Kone Foundation hopes that the area will become a national park.

Read more about the Sanginjoki forest conservation

We measured our carbon footprint – including the impact of grantees’ work activities

The Foundation measured its carbon footprint for the first time in such a way that the impacts of its grantees’ activities were also taken into consideration. The results revealed that air travel by grantees accounts for more than half of the emissions of the Foundation’s activities, even though Kone Foundation grants special support for slow travel. In the future, even greater efforts will be made to encourage slow travel.

Read more about the carbon footprint study

An Ecocompass environmental system was built at the Saari Residence

The activities at Saari focus on safeguarding biodiversity, procurement and environmental communications. The action taken to protect biodiversity in the residence’s grounds is carefully selected and planned under the direction of experts in the field. The University of Turku’s Department of Biology launched a multi-year project to survey the species of organisms present in the new forest pasture area at the residence.

Read more about the work for ecologically sustainable activities at Saari Residence

We are restoring the Kulla nature reserve damaged by forestry activities

Kone Foundation established the Kulla nature reserve in Kemiönsaari in order to compensate for the natural resources consumed by the operations of the foundation. In 2021, we undertook restoration measures in the area to speed up the recovery of nature and attempt to create new habitats for the species that have suffered from the forestry previously practised in the area.

Read more about the restoration work in Kulla

The winner of Vuoden Tiedekynä Academic Writing award studied mushroom pickers in clearfelled forests

Kone Foundation’s Vuoden Tiedekynä Academic Writing Award of EUR 25,000 was awarded to an environmental research article in 2021. The prize went to Pieta Hyvärinen (now Savinotko) for an article entitled, “Mushroom-foraging on Northern Tree Plantations: Diverse Forest Economies and the Problem of Plantationocentrism”.

Read more about the winning article

Kuvitus: Marika Maijala

Communications in 2021

Kone Foundation gained a new visual identity and website.

  • Kone Foundation and the Saari Residence gained a new visual identity in 2021. The designer was Marina Veziko. A website based on the new design was unveiled in November.
  • Six articles were published about research funded by Kone Foundation for the Different Routes series of long reads. Altogether, the stories attracted more than 25,000 readers to the Foundation’s website. Four articles were published as supplements to Image magazine.
  • The communication work was structured around announcements about the Foundation’s core work: in addition to communications on the grant application rounds and awards, we released news on topics such as the Foundation’s separate funding for independent groups in the performing arts, as well as for multidisciplinary collaboration in research and the arts.
  • The Foundation’s main communication channels are the website, newsletter, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Heljä Franssila: Communications in 2021

We spent 2021 reforming our communications. The Foundation gained a new visual identity and a new website. At the beginning of the year, we announced two things that are important to us: the purchase of the Sanginjoki forest in Oulu, which will hopefully lead to the creation of a new national park in Northern Finland, and the Foundation’s new strategy, which saw us wave farewell to the rhetoric of bold initiatives.

One of our greatest efforts was the series of long read articles called Different Routes. The carefully edited articles have captured the interest of thousands of readers. We also published the series as a supplement to Image magazine.

Our work is driven by a desire to try new things, and not everything works. One such experiment was the introduction of the Slack platform for our grantees as part of the Grants+ service. We wanted this platform to foster a sense of community, but it ultimately saw little use.

Instead, remote webinars and peer mentoring were provided to support the work of our grantees and proved to be excellent online concepts during the pandemic. During the pandemic, we shifted the focus of our communications from on-site events to digital communications with good results.

Heljä Franssila
Communications Director

Kone Foundation’s finances in 2021

As an owner and investor, the Foundation seeks to promote ecologically and socially sustainable businesses in compliance with the principles of good corporate governance.

Tiina Toivonen: Kone Foundation’s finances in 2021

Kone Foundation relies on yields from investments for its operations. The purpose of the investment function is to manage the Foundation’s investment assets so that operations pursuant to the Foundation’s by-laws remain stable now and in the future. In its capacity as an owner and investor, the Foundation seeks to promote ecologically and socially sustainable businesses in compliance with the principles of good corporate governance.

Investments are governed by the investment strategy, approved annually by the Board of Trustees, and the annual investment plan.

In 2021, output of almost all advanced economies recovered to the levels seen prior to the pandemic. Vaccination programmes, support measures by states and central banks, and strong demand underpinned economic growth and led to significant rises in share prices. Inflation increased, primarily due to higher oil and gas prices.

At the time of publication of this annual report, the war in Ukraine was not expected to have a major impact on investment returns in 2022.

Kone Foundation’s long investment horizon and sufficient liquidity safeguard its continuity despite the increased level of uncertainty.

Tiina Toivonen
Director of Administration and Finance

Thank you for reading! You have made it to the end of our annual report.

If you would like to know more about our activities in the past, please have a look at our previous annual reports.

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