The Norwegian Research Council - beyond the horizon

The Research Council of Norway is the backbone of an extremely strong Norwegian R&D network, working closely with the Government, research and educational institutions, and private companies. The Research Council leads this coordinated effort, using knowledge-based research combined with applied innovation in order to turn solid R&D into successful products and services – and better quality of life.

Stimulating activities within the R&D environment is a primary success factor for the Research Council, and its overall strategy has been fine-tuned with this goal in mind. Research Expands Frontiers complements the three main areas of activities: environment, advanced equipment and open competition for applied research.
 
This overall strategy is further defined by five strategic priorities developed to guide efforts to generate insight, enhance opportunity and promote innovative solution. Enhancing research quality, increasing innovation research, expanding the dialogue between research and society, continuing the internalization of Norwegian research and fostering more national talent are all key success criteria. 
 
The Research Council distributes funding to more than 130 research projects, including seven large-scale research programmes.
© Jon Solberg, The Research Council of Norway
Working Together
The Research Council’s focus is in line with national objectives set in close cooperation with all areas of the Norwegian Government. Extending to all sectors of R&D, this cooperation includes working with the extensive health network within the country, featuring the impressive coalition between the Rikshospitalet University Hospital and the Norwegian Radium Hospital, two hospitals internationally recognized and designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Centre (see separate article).
 
In addition, such initiatives as the High North strategy are part of the growing recognition of the importance of the far northern areas for Norway as a whole. This recognition extends far beyond the oil and gas industry, encompassing other sectors as well, with environment and societal considerations central in the process. This includes the broad-based governmental initiative that will strengthen the Norwegian commitment in furthering its long-term climate policy by providing a major boost to research and innovation within climate and energy research.
 
Reaching Out
While its primary focus is on Norway, the Research Council looks far beyond the country’s borders in stimulating international alliances that aid in increasing the quality and capacity of Norwegian research to strengthen Norway’s pivotal role as a global partner. These activities are of great importance for the knowledge-based innovative development of Norway as it continues to become more globally competitive.
 
The Research Council administrates and distributes public funding through more than 130 research projects, including seven large-scale research programmes. These include the FUGE (Functional Genomics in Norway) programme, combining marine, medical and basic biotechnology, with environmental science and ethics also representing important aspects of the project. This wide range of projects and research allows the Research Council of Norway to keep the overall perspective in addressing policy research priorities that are of crucial importance to society. This perspective is important in assisting the national government in its goal of continuing to strength Norwegian research and industry’s positive impact on the international stage.
 
The Norwegian Research System
According to the Minister of Research, Tora Aasland, knowledge and technology will be essential in the goal of Norway becoming carbon-neutral by 2030. This is one important success criteria that drives many of the R&D activities here in this country. A research system is often described as being divided into three levels: a research policy level, a research strategy level, and a research-performing level.
 
On the policy level, the Government and its ministries, as well as the Norwegian National Assembly (Storting) are central in the process. Responsibility for strategy falls upon the Research Council of Norway, coordinating with governmental, educational and research institutions to optimize and focus planning. Finally, the research-performing level consists of the higher education institutions, private industry, as well as the independent research institutions described in the following section.
 
Outstanding in Their Field
There are certain areas of research that naturally complement Norway’s policies and strategies. Energy and its effective use is the focus of Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), the research institute for energy and nuclear technology in Norway. Specializing in commercial software solutions and research activities within applied geophysics and seismology, and operating some of the world’s largest seismological observatories, NORSAR is international recognized as expert in its field.
 
The prime institution responsible for defence-related research is the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI); and the Norwegian Institute for Air (NILU) conducts environmental research with emphasis on the sources of airborne pollution, atmospheric transport, transformation and deposition and is also involved in the assessment of the effects of pollution on ecosystems, human health and materials. Finally, the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) offers research and services within geotechnics, engineering geology, hydrogeology and environmental geo-technology. 
 
The Kjeller Science Park works closely with these five major Norwegian Research Institutes as well as the education institutions in order to fulfil its mission to move forward the commercialization process of research ideas and technology. With a focus on energy, environmental technology and social safety, Kjeller Science Park is committed in it goal to be at the centre of innovation and commercialization of these technologies.
 
SINTEF is the largest research organization in Scandinavia, working closely with the Research Council.
© Thor Nielsen/SINTEF Media
Excellence is as Excellence Does
Initiated by the Research Council, the Centres of Excellence (CoE) programme is devoted to long-term basic research, the main objective to enhance business sector ability to innovate by focusing on long-term research, facilitated by forging close alliances between research-intensive enterprises and prominent research groups. With the addition of eight new Centres added in 2006, there are now a total of 21 Centres of Excellence working diligently to further their respective areas of activity. These new CoEs include the Centre for Software Components for Biomedical Flows (CBC), hosted by Simula Research Laboratory AS.
 
CBC’s goal is to develop algorithms and software to perform extremely complex simulations such as the flow of blood through the heart, simulations that can be used in biology and medicine research. Although fluid flow has been studied with computer simulations for many years, flows in the body are very complicated because they occur in complex, moving geometries, and they often interact closely with other processes such as electrical signals and chemical reactions. These simulations represent a huge potential for proving medical research as computer simulation is relatively inexpensive and convenient compared to traditional experimental techniques. 
 
Spanning All Biotechnology
Other CoEs related to Biotechnology include the Aquaculture Protein Centre, focused on improved utilization of protein resources based on knowledge about the nutritional requirements of fish; the Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, taking a leading role in elucidating the role of DNA repair and genome maintenance mechanisms in preventing neurological disease and brain ageing; and the Centre for Cancer Biomedicine, a part of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre (see separate article).
 
Research at the Rikshospitalet University Hospital extends from clinical studies involving patients to cellular and molecular research as part of the Centre for Immune Regulation; the Centre for Research-based Innovation in Aquaculture Technology (CREATE) carries out research related to improving the grow-out phase of marine fish culture; and the Centre for Marine Bioactives and Drug Discovery (MabCent) lays the foundation for the development of high-value bioactive products by screening organisms from the arctic marine environment.
 
Innovation & Expertise
In cooperation with the Research Council, Innovation Norway works with companies through different phases of their business development process, beginning with assessment of marketing opportunities and priorities, and moving onwards to entrance strategies, establishment and expansion. The ultimate goal is to help them to increase their product or service impact within Norway and on the global market.
 
To achieve this goal, Innovation Norway offers a number of services and has a network of advisers working all across Norway as part of the process that covers a large area of business development, including how the product or service will be produced, what costs are involved, the planned sales and market channels to be used and how the customer will perceive the process. Striving to create identity and quality, Innovation Norway knows it has done its job well when its Norwegian business clients achieve success in Norway and beyond.
 
Other institutions working to further the R&D effort on a practical level include the Oslo Innovation Centre, with the goal is to help nurture commercial sound project ideas and research results, providing the opportunity to develop into successful companies (see separate article). Another success programme is called the “Centres of Expertise”, initiated by Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (SIVA) in close cooperation with the Research Council and Innovation Norway. The target of this programme is to provide support to regional clusters of companies who show international potential.     
 
A Centre of Excellence, CBC software simulations includes blood vessels reconstructed from MRI pictures of patients with aneurysms.
© TSimula Research Laboratory AS
A Bright Future
There are a great many indicators pointing to the fact that the Research Council of Norway and its national R&D network is achieving success. These indicators include the number of published scientific articles, with Norway posting the highest growth in number during the period from 2002 to 2006 among Nordic countries. These statistics –
and this country’s R&D environment in general – show clearly that Norway is forging forward in a wide range of fields, laying the groundwork for an even stronger and brighter future for innovative Norwegian companies in Norway and beyond in the years to come.

 

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