“The Research Council serves as an agent of change. One of our tasks is to help Norwegian companies and research groups achieve successful international research cooperation. What can we do to make this happen? I want to consult the users so we in turn can give better advice.”
From her 10 years of Research Council experience as a programme coordinator and departmental director, Kristin Danielsen is already well aware of the areas in need of more attention. But now that she has been appointed to coordinate international activities across the entire Research Council, she feels she needs to expand her insight even more.
“We need to be more systematic about compiling knowledge so we’ll be able to provide better advice, both within the organisation and to the many players out there, about the relevant specialist communities abroad and their quality.”
The main principle of the Research Council’s international strategy is that all its activities must have specific objectives and plans for international cooperation. In this respect the Research Council has by and large succeeded.
“Nearly every one of our programmes now uses a bottom-up approach to international cooperation. Norwegian researchers collaborate with their international counterparts more than before; this is a positive trend we wish to reinforce. But we also intend to lay a better foundation for more strategic cooperation in the top-down sense, meaning expanding cooperation with other country’s research councils as well as with research programmes in different countries,” says Dr Danielsen.
SMALL BUT SMART: “Norway is a small country that depends on international cooperation to achieve outstanding research,” says Kristin Danielsen, the new International Director at the Research Council of Norway. (Photo: Therese Farstad)
EU is crucial
The EU is looking to employ its new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation – Horizon 2020 much more strategically than its previous framework programmes. Cooperation between countries at the research council level will become a more fundamental component.
“EU activities are vital for us, and the EU systems help us a great deal in our strategic efforts. The EU instruments are in place, ready to be drawn upon. Our many bilateral research cooperation relationships are more difficult , because there is a lot more we have to do for these all on our own.”
Agriculture and food
Kristin Danielsen comes to her new directorship from the position of Director of the Department for Knowledge-based Bioeconomy under the Division for Innovation at the Research Council.
Agriculture and food have been the common thread throughout her entire career, ever since she finished her studies at the Agricultural University of Norway, now known as the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). She earned her Ph.D. in animal science in the US, but otherwise her researcher experience cannot be characterised as particularly international. Her interest and expertise in international activities have grown steadily through her work at the Research Council.
“Agriculture is the best-coordinated sphere of research in Europe,” continues Dr Danielsen, “probably because it is a knowledge-based sector in which the EU countries have been forced to cooperate. It is thanks to this scientific focus that I’ve been involved in so many international issues. Now I very much look forward to seeing all the research fields within the bigger, international picture.”
Three reasons to cooperate
Her background at the Research Council’s Division for Innovation has given Dr Danielsen a broad perspective on the importance of international research cooperation. When politicians only look at research cooperation with the EU in terms of the financial bottom line, their thinking is far too narrow, she believes.
“Our returns are so vastly greater than the budgets can reflect,” she stresses, citing three compelling reasons to increase cooperation. “First of all, the countries of Europe share many societal challenges, such as climate change and demographics. These cannot be tackled alone. Second, Norway is a small country that depends on cooperation to achieve outstanding research. And third, international research cooperation provides a means for providing export-oriented Norwegian industry with good networks and new markets.” Dr Danielsen puts an extra emphasis on this final argument, which she believes is too often disregarded.