Tallinn University of Technology

Estonian centres of excellence in research

Centres of excellence bring together high-level research teams that work on close research themes to conduct high-level international research and to develop and apply innovative ideas. The centres lay the foundation for strengthening the cooperation and competitiveness of Estonian research in the European Research Area. The work of centres of excellence is funded from the state budget of Estonia.
The Tallinn University of Technology is the lead partner in two centres of excellence and a partner in five centres.
Funding period: 1 January 2024 – 31 December 2030

Centers of Excellence led by TalTech

This Centre of Excellence (CoE) focuses on fostering innovation in resource efficiency, promoting circular economy practices, utilizing local resources, ensuring safe material circulation, and educating researchers to reduce environmental impacts. It centers around four key areas: Strategic Mineral Resources (SMR), Carbon-Based Resources (CBR), Circular Technologies Upscaling (CTU), and Circular Business Eco-System and Modeling (CBEM). The SMR group maps critical materials in waste streams, including renewables, for extraction and reuse while minimizing hazardous waste. The CBR group develops eco-friendly pathways for essential chemicals and plastics, also assessing their environmental impact. The CTU group pioneers waste reduction and recycling methods for aqueous, and solid waste, incl. water purification. The CBEM group analyzes sustainable business ecosystems and value chains. This CoE's interdisciplinary approach will benefit both Estonia and Europe by advancing circular economy.

Partners: University of Tartu, National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics

Head of the centre of excellence: Tenured Associate Professor Riina Aav  (riina.aav@taltech.ee)

CoE ENER covers 53% of final energy use in Estonia as well as major energy-saving measures with the highest investment volumes. CoE aims to contribute to Estonian societal and economic challenges by transforming 75% of existing building stock with poor energy performance to zero-emission buildings (ZEB) with maximized co-benefits and improved life quality by 2050. The scientific aim is to extend the excellence in ZEB technologies to become the top research centre in equity-enhancing deep renovation, driving disruptive changes and initiating systemic reforms encompassing innovative technologies, novel governance models, novel participatory and collaborative approaches to engage citizens. Interdisciplinary CoE combines engineering, social, data sciences and economics with a central focus on the energy performance of buildings and districts, electrification and flexibility, renewable energy generation and storage, energy-saving measures and business models with their socioeconomic and regional impacts.

Partners: Tallinn University, University of Tartu

Head of the centre of excellence: Tenured Full Professor Jarek Kurnitski (jarek.kurnitski@taltech.ee)

TalTech participates as partner at:

Lead partner: National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics

The discovery of gravitational waves (GWs) opens novel possibilities to probe the foundations of our Universe in an attempt to go beyond current paradigms. The CoE "Universum" offers interdisciplinary research aimed at cross-correlating the results of GW observations with ongoing theoretical and experimental efforts in cosmology, particle physics and gravity. The CoE combines Estonian expertise in the mentioned fields and provides a unified framework that promotes interdisciplinary cooperation. Besides fundamental research, the proposed activities involve the development of experimental hardware and info-technology methods to extend current capabilities, including next-generation machine learning algorithms and the potential applications of quantum computers in fundamental research. The CoE relies on Estonian membership in ESA and CERN to boost knowledge transfer, cooperation with industry, and raise the international competitiveness and awareness of Estonian science.

Contact from TalTech: Tauno Otto (tauno.otto@taltech.ee)

Head of the centre of excellence: Martti Raidal (National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics)

Lead partner: University of Tartu

The centre of excellence brings together world-class green energy technology research teams in Estonia. The centre will focus on developing novel high-density fuel cells, electrolysers, batteries, supercapacitors, thin-film hydrogen storage materials, efficient light sources, and environmentally friendly and cost-effective thin-film photovoltaic cells for integration into buildings.
A demo centre will be set up to showcase advanced hydrogen and energy generation and storage devices, demonstrate them in operation and cooperate with companies to find ways to produce new devices and launch technologies to market. The competitive edge of the centre of excellence is the novel computational and cutting-edge ‘in operando’ techniques based on synchrotron and neutron radiation for the study of devices and materials under realistic conditions. The centre of excellence will train bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students, research and development experts and policymakers.

Contacts from TalTech: Maarja Grossberg-Kuusk (maarja.grossberg@taltech.ee), Ilona Oja Acik (ilona.oja@taltech.ee)

Head of the centre of excellence: Enn Lust (University of Tartu)

Lead partner: University of Tartu

The centre of excellence will advance innovative methodologies to develop reliable artificial intelligence systems. These methodologies are applied to further AI capabilities in key Estonian sectors, including e-governance, healthcare, business process management, and cybersecurity.
The use of foundation models, such as large language models, increases the ability of AI to interpret complex data and generate solutions. The centre of excellence aims to advance innovative methodologies to leverage foundation models in building efficient and trustworthy analysis and prediction systems; implement control mechanisms and guardrails to ensure that the advanced AI systems follow their specifications; adapt and enhance AI systems to improve for improved performance of applications; and ensure the security and privacy of AI systems.

Contacts from TalTech: Tanel Tammet (tanel.tammet@taltech.ee), Tanel Alumäe (tanel.alumae@taltech.ee), Pawel Maria Sobocinski (pawel.sobocinski@taltech.ee), Rain Ottis (rain.ottis@taltech.ee)

Head of the centre of excellence: Meelis Kull (University of Tartu)

Lead partner: University of Tartu

In the centre of excellence, researchers of the humanities and scientists cooperate to clarify the formation of cultural and genetic diversity in Estonia and neighbouring areas. The centre of excellence focuses on evolution – change in time and space – in its diverse manifestations. To this end, a new transdisciplinary framework for studying the interactions between people, cultures, and environment will be created, integrating different fields of research and methodologies. The centre of excellence will explore the processes that have shaped the peoples and cultures of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea since the first arrivals of people after the Last Glacial Maximum to the present in a novel areal and ecological context. The research will map human populations and cultural phenomena and the abiotic (climate) and biotic (plants, animals) factors that have influenced them. Relying on precise data from archaeogenetics, studies of culture and linguistics, and paleoecology, the researchers will generate new detailed knowledge on the evolution of the population and the unique culture of these areas in the European context.

Contact from TalTech: Siim Veski (siim.veski@taltech.ee)

Head of the centre of excellence: Kristiina Tambets (University of Tartu)

Lead partner: University of Tartu

The centre of excellence will bring together social and natural scientists who study people and the contexts in which they operate to find new methods to measure, understand and influence human well-being.
Well-being is a state reflecting how people’s basic needs are met. Improving well-being in society is both an end in itself and a means to foster economic growth, democracy, societal resilience and other values of society. Increasing well-being requires an interdisciplinary approach because well-being depends on a number of internal and external factors at biological, psychological, and social levels of analysis, forming a complex system. Researchers of the centre of excellence will study the following:
Which bio-psychological and socio-spatial characteristics are associated with more stable components of well-being, such as satisfaction with life?
•    How are dynamic components of well-being, such as emotions, instantiated within individuals?
•    How do individuals understand and manage their well-being in self-care ecosystems?
•    How to improve well-being using targeted and tailored interventions?

Contact from TalTech: Ivo Fridolin (ivo.fridolin@taltech.ee)

Head of the centre of excellence: Andero Uusberg (University of Tartu)