Research Areas

Here is an overview of the different research fields, with highlights of the best current achievements in each field by our researchers.

The science fields are grouped according to the FIELD OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (FOS) classification in the Frascati Manual (FM) (OECD, 2016):

Estonia is heading towards becoming the most advanced digital society and e-state in the world. The whole population is seamlessly integrated with using ICT in almost every aspect of life, while pushing the limits in health technologies and using resources in wise ways.

Around 20 years ago, Estonia brought computers and internet to every school. A bit later, 200,000 adults (20% of the population) were educated to use ICT. Today, 99% of Estonian public services are online 24/7. Initiatives, such as e-Identitye-Tax Boarde-School and i-Voting along with e-Health, are some examples of the ground-breaking solutions invented by Estonians and exported to 130 countries. Estonia’s main focus is smart specialization to boost the growth of research in ICT, health technologies and services, and effective use of resources.

Natural science deals with the physical world, e.g. physics, chemistry, geology and biology. Research conducted under this field helps us find answers to environmental challenges as well as looking far above the Earth with the study of space as well. So, the scope for discovery here is quite wide. Estonian researchers stand out with their innovative ways on how to use big-data to find everyday solutions for scientific problems.

Estonian natural sciences put great emphasis on studying the reasons for climate change. The current changes in climate are often seen as the impact of industrial development, but Ülo Niinemets, professor of plant physiology at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, argues that plants in the biosphere also emit gasses, with hundreds of thousands of various chemical byproducts. He and his colleagues use big data analysis to assist in their studies.

Take business management for example, big data analysis can be effectively applied here as well. The professor of software engineering at the University of Tartu, Marlon Dumas, has studied business process management (BPM) for more than a decade. The analysis of data helps to reduce the costs and error rates of business when applied correctly.

However, the cherry on top of big data analysis in practice, is Sharemind. Programmable, secure computations with practical applications. In other words, it is a data-analysing service based on complex mathematical calculations, which has a wide scope of impact and can give us a wider view on our government, society and broader environment.

Want to know more about the Estonian natural sciences? Read these success stories!

Achieving success in Estonia is a game of juggling international research and public expectations for scientists. Having to convince the public that your work will also be visibly applied to everyday life. As a result, an interesting and exciting trend has emerged. Research within social sciences in Estonia has various applications in media studies, psychology, innovative learning and teaching solutions, as well as demographic studies, etc.

However, most of all Estonia is famous for its e-solutions, e-voting and most recently e-residency.

As a result, Estonian social scientists are interested in the impact of e-voting on political behaviour. They have rather surprising findings to share from their studies based on the experiences of e-voting in Estonia.

Another concern of modern societies is the growing amount of bureaucracy. The issue of whether bureaucratic institutions can be innovative has also become a poignant field of study for Estonian researchers.

Want to know more about the Estonian social sciences? Read these success stories!

Clinical medicine and basic medicine are well developed in Estonia. Areas explored in the most fundamental parts of medical research include molecular biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, etc.

The Estonian Biobank  holds protected data on five percent of the country’s adult population and is a massive boon to medical research. Estonia stands out for its ongoing ambition of developing and implementing the personal health care system.  Furthermore, in the framework of genetics research significant steps have been taken in finding new solutions for screening genetic disorders and studying the genetical structure across Europe.

Want to know more about the Estonian medical sciences? Read these success stories!

Estonian agriculture is a heartwarming story of connected people. From producer to processor, advisor to scientist, collaboration is key.

Being connected ensures agricultural land remains healthy, practices environmentally sound and regional traditions respected; and we’ll have locally produced and grown food on our tables. High quality and pure food is one of the natural resources of Estonia, therefore research into food safety and the sustainable production of quality food plays a key role. Plant ecology in general is one of the research fields where the diversity and productivity of Estonian life sciences becomes evident.

Want to know more about the Estonian agricultural sciences? Read these success stories!

In Estonia the area of engineering and technology sees significant scientific attention reserved for the material sciences, textile technology, electronics, robotics and a host of other fields.

There’s a remarkable amount of scientific support behind the nanofiber fabric. Estonian scientists have developed a unique method of electrospinning, which will make it possible to produce large quantities of nanofiber in the future. Nanofiber fabric is thinner than a hair’s breadth, which may consist of hundreds of fibers. It’s used in medicine and electronics, but may also revolutionise the clothing industry in the coming decades.

At the same time a significant amount of research is being done in another area of engineering: developing a robot that copies the shape and motions of a fish. The objective behind that development is to understand how fish interact with their environment and how water flow could be used to save energy.

Want to know more about the Estonian engineering and technology? Read these success stories!

Estonia is a relatively small country. It’s also one of the world’s smallest countries to have its own educational and scientific infrastructure, steeped in its own cultural traditions and in its own language.

Humanities scholars have a dual role to play in Estonia, to both produce top-notch international research whilst bearing the torch for the Estonian language, culture, education, and scientific inquiry. Here are a few pointers to help you get a feel for what they do.

Want to know more about the Estonian humanities and the arts? Read these success stories!


The ICT sector in Estonia is visible with its 4% contribution to GDP. The locals here have caused global revolutions in P2P file sharing (think Kazaa!), online communication (think Skype!), as well as in the finance technology (think TransferWise!).

Most people active in the ICT sector are alumni of the University of Tartu (UT) or the TalTech University (TalTech). The foundations of Estonian e-success have been increasing ICT education and opening the IT Academy.

From code writing to robotics

Computer scientists from the UT are currently working on exceptional research projects in deep learning and machine learningquantum cryptography and cryptography, including e-elections. Other research projects, such as information systems, business process analysis and mining, as well as bioinformatics and personalized medicine applications, are on a high level. The UT alumni are behind companies, such as Skype, gaming industry’s leading software supplier Playtech, money-transfer service Transferwise and ZeroTurnaround that makes tools for faster software development.

TalTech’s School of Information Technologies is home to around 70% of all Estonian IT students while 2/3 of Estonian IT science is born there, benefitting from strong international research groups and the existence of world-class ICT research laboratories. Besides the TalTech’s IT College, Tallinn also hosts EXCITE, the Centre of Excellence in ICT Research, an institution that focuses on topics related to IT security and reliability, uniting Estonia’s 16 most prominent IT researchers.

TalTech actively explores RD&I projects: the high-assurance software laboratory, the centre of dependable computing systems design, centres for biorobotics and biomedical engineering, the centre for digital forensics and cyber security and the project researching cognitive electronics and communication technologies. TalTech’s School of Information Technologies also focuses its R&D on large IT systems, model-based software, AI, social engineering systems, non-linear control systems, language technology, e-health, cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things.

Scholars from TalTech have founded companies like Testonica Lab, which acts in the sectors of IT and electronics production. Rakuten combines shoppers’ personal data with garments’ data, while Optofluid Technologies develops online sensor for dialysis machines. Guardtime has built the KSI platform that tackles complicated problems in security, supply chain, compliance and networking. It is used globally to make sure networks, systems and data are non-compromised, while retaining data privacy. SafeToAct develops hi-fi kidney replicas, whereas Ragnarok 2.0 works on the new generation of working clothes.

Various incubators and accelerators provide support to start-ups. Hackaton Garage48 is a weekend test site for fresh ideas, while cooperation centres PrototronStartUp Wise GuysLift99TalTech Mektory, sTARTUp HUB and SPARK HUB help new enterprises grow.

Accumulation of expertise, easily accessible supporting infrastructure and digital mindset in terms of business are the key factors, why Estonian ICT sector contributes its 4% to national GDP.

With more than a 10-year-experience in e-Health, Estonia is currently one of the first countries to implement personalised medicine. In health tech and services, interdisciplinary collaboration is active with researchers in IT, engineering, design and arts. This results in countermeasures to viruses (Zika or Ebola), personalising medicine with genetic testing, developing non-invasive medical monitoring and smart needles plus combining design and technology for healthcare.

Universities and R&D institutions contribute to health technology. As Estonia is one of the leaders in the provision of public digital services, the national communications and transactions platform X-road provides a trusted way to exchange health data. The local e-Health system is globally unique: it is country-wide, integrates data of all healthcare providers and gives overviews of the health condition of every resident.

Personal, local and global solutions

Regenerative and reproductive medicine and cancer research is practiced in the internationally valued Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology of the University of Tartu. The Institute of Technology’s research directions include synthetic biology, biomedical and environmental technologies, intelligent materials and computer vision.

UT is also home to Estonian Genome Centre (The Biobank) that holds the genome data of 52,000 individuals, all of them genotyped for over 700,000 different genetic variants. In 2018, the Genome Centre aims to collect the genetic data of 100,000 people and integrate it into medical practice by giving people feedback on their personal genetic risks.

The ongoing research of National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics (KBFI) focuses on cancer diagnostics, using Molecular System Bioenergetics approach to provide solutions in the field of cancer and muscular cell bioenergetics.

Nearly 44 million people in the world have Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, creating a global cost of around $ 605 billion. The researchers of Tallinn University, in collaboration with the Stockholm Karolinska Institute’s AD Centre, work on human BRICHOS proteins in order to combat the Alzheimer’s.

Competencies of TalTech’s Department of Health Technologies include diagnostics of cardiovascular diseases, brain diagnostics and chronic diseases: optical kidney dialysis monitoring, wearables: sensors and monitors plus e-Health.

eMed Lab of the Department of Health Technologies of TalTech contains researchers with leading e-health and e-government expertise. The research fields are Big Data, clients’ online access to medical data and monitoring of the effectiveness and the potential adverse effects of new e-services or digital technologies in health care. TalTech has participated in several European telemedicine projects: eMedicPrimCareITChromedMasterMind and has comprehensive expertise in e-health.

The Thomas Johann Seebeck Department of Electronics of TalTech develops smart needles and non-invasive monitoring of central blood pressure using wearable devices. Fast detection of pathogens in point-of-care devices, detection of lesions in organs and controlling of localized drug administration plus control of heart pacing rate in implantable cardiac pacemakers are researched. Wearable robots for augmentation and assistance or substitution of human motor functions are among the points of research.

The Competence Centre on Health Technologies CCHT is a biotechnology company focused on research and product development in personal medicine, drug development and both human and veterinary reproductive medicine. CCHT creates diagnostic systems for female reproductive diseases and develops solutions for identifying foetal genetic diseases by non-invasive prenatal testing. It also studies clinically proven probiotic strains for reproductive disorders.

The Connected Health cluster unites 70+ partners of Estonian health-related stakeholders, committed to accelerating the adoption of connected health solutions on an international scale and on commercial terms.

Closely collaborating research community, availability of health related data, entrepreneurial spirit and unique ways to solve some of the most challenging health issues in smart ways make Estonia a world class innovator in medicine technologies.

Potential in the efficient use of resources is the highest in materials science and industry, but also in developing the ‘smart and passive housing’ concept and health-supporting food.

UT Institute of Chemistry is researching materials for super-capacitors and fuel cells. In 2015, cooperation with NT Bene AS was launched for the development of hydrogen filling stations. ESA’s supplier Skeleton Technologies and Elcogen use the results and knowledge that has been generated by the institute’s electrochemists since 1997. Elcogen produces the world’s most efficient solid oxide fuel cell technology for more than 60 global customers.

In the KBFI Centre of Excellence “Emerging orders in quantum and nanomaterials” (EQUITANT), researchers explore various ferroic orders and their potential applications.

TalTech’s Department of Materials and Environmental Technology works on developing new materials for solar cells and design developments (mono-powders, nanomaterials, thin films). Nano- and composite materials for various environmental applications are in the invention phase.

The active smart interior textiles are being investigated at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Using upcycling in fashion design is also researched from theoretical and practical perspectives.

Energy efficiency in buildings and health in food

Soon, we will face transition to building nearly zero-energy buildings (ZEB). From 2020 onwards, all constructed buildings must have near-to-zero energy consumption.

Energy and resource efficiency improvement in buildings and districts is researched at ZEBE Centre of Excellence in Research. Research focuses on zero-energy and resource-efficient smart buildings, resource-efficient wooden structures, composites, intelligent and efficient energy management. ZEBE also conducts research on the smart house concept and the digitalization of engineering and planning.

Estonian food industry produces close to 100% of the food used by locals and is one of the leading economic sectors. The share of organic farming in 2017 reached ⅕ of agricultural land. Research Centre of Organic Farming of the Estonian University of Life Sciences brings together organic farming and food studies to initiate further activities in the field.

Centre of Food and Fermentation Technologies CFFT cooperates with more than 40 food industry enterprises, helping to develop novel cheese and rye bread production technologies, supports ice-cream and cider product development and has created new recipes for functional foods and herb mixes.

Affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production plus zero hunger are among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Estonian research institutions are making their best to meet these global challenges at home and at abroad.


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