17 new Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) announced

“These centres will expand the innovation capacity of the Norwegian business sector and provide a more stable framework for the research groups to carry out their industry-oriented research,” stated Director General of the Research Council of Norway, Arvid Hallén, when he announced the list of Norway’s new SFI centres on 21 November.

The Research Council will be allocating roughly NOK 1.6 billion over the next eight years to the 17 new centres which have been launched to carry out research in close collaboration between companies and research groups. The new centres represent a major investment in long-term industry-oriented research.

“This investment will trigger research activity for over NOK 3 billion over the next eight years. It is our ambition to make Norway a leading innovation nation in Europe. The Government is focusing on industry-oriented research and innovation as a means of achieving this,” says Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland.

Head of the committee appointed by the Research Council Executive Board and professor at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Jarle Moen (at left), Director General of the Research Council, Arvid Hallén, and Executive Director of the Division for Innovation, Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, leaving the meeting of the committee with the list of the 17 new SFI centres in hand.

Highest quality yet
All of the 57 applications submitted in this application round were of exceedingly high quality, giving the Research Council an unparalleled abundance of choice. Some 265 international referees assessed the scientific merit of the applications, while some 80 Norwegian referees assessed the potential for innovation and value creation.

“The establishment of the new Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) is one of the steps to follow up the goals set out in the long-term plan for research and higher education. Collaboration between trade and industry and outstanding research groups is essential to tackling the major societal challenges we are facing. The new SFI centres show that we are on the right track,” says Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.

The SFI scheme was launched in 2005. A total of 21 consortia of research institutions and industrial actors from all of Norway have worked together so far on industry-oriented research with international potential. The mid-term evaluation of the centres stated that the SFI scheme is an effective instrument for concentrating expertise in a small country such as Norway. According to Mr Hallén, the centres are sought after as partners for international actors and have helped to put Norway on the global innovation map.

Broad-based portfolio
Applications for SFI status were received from every corner of the country, and the new centres are widely dispersed geographically.

The brand-new SFI centres include environments in strong, research-based industries such as the petroleum, maritime and aquaculture industries. Several of the centres within these areas are seeking to develop sustainable solutions and services based on a combination of new research results and existing know-how.

Promising new SFI centres will also be established in other areas in need of research-based innovation, including the health and care sector, the ICT sector, the bioeconomy and the process industry. For example, at the Big Insight centre, heavyweights such as the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and Telenor will collaborate with the Norwegian Computing Center (NR) to develop new services for the private and public sectors based on vast amounts of digital data (big data). At the Klima 2050 centre, SINTEF will work to reduce climate change-related risks to the built environment. The Foods of Norway centre at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences will seek to formulate animal feed based on resources that on their own are not suitable feedstuffs, and the Connected Care centre at Oslo University Hospital will work to use patients themselves a resource in the development of new treatments.

More women in leadership positions  
In the funding announcement the Research Council called for women centre directors and women in other leadership positions in the research consortia. This encouragement has paid off:

“We are very pleased that six of the 17 centres will be headed by women. This is the result of active, targeted efforts on the part of the applicant environments and the Research Council,” says the Director General. This means there is a five-fold increase in the percentage of women centre directors under this funding round.

About the Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) scheme
  • The SFI scheme was launched in 2005.
  • This is the third funding round.
  • Objectives:
    • To strengthen companies’ innovation capacity through a focus on long-term research;
    • To facilitate close cooperation between R&D-performing companies and prominent research groups;
    • To make Norway an attractive location for international companies to establish their R&D activities;
    • To enhance researcher training in areas of importance for the business sector and society at large, and encourage transfer of research-based industry and technology.
  • The SFI centres are co-funded by the company partners, the host institution and the Research Council.
  • The SFI centres may have a period of operation of maximum eight years (an initial five-year period plus an additional three-year period).
  • Centres must conduct research of high scientific merit that carries great potential for innovation and value creation to be awarded SFI status.

 

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