The midterm evaluation was conducted in the period between March and November 2012 by the consulting firm Oxford Research in cooperation with Jerker Moodysson of the Centre for Innovation, Research and Competence in the Learning Economy (CIRCLE) at Lund University.
The VRI programme cooperates with research institutions, county administrations and trade and industry players throughout Norway to promote development and value creation. The Research Council awards funding to projects, which are followed up through the VRI programme administration and board as well as through the Council’s regional representatives around the country.
“The VRI programme is an important instrument for developing regional research and innovation systems, including innovation within companies. The midterm evaluation gives us unambiguous input on what is working well and where we need to make adjustments in the activities,” says Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Division for Innovation at the Research Council.
The evaluation confirms that the activities to promote cooperation and innovation research projects under the VRI programme have made a positive impact. The cooperation-oriented activities are based on the regions’ industry-oriented priority areas. The innovation research projects are designed to produce knowledge with a regional focus, but with national and international relevance.
VRI activities must be strengthened
The evaluation recommends that greater emphasis is placed on establishing clear performance targets for the projects that receive funding. It also recommends maintaining a clear distinction between the activities to promote cooperation and the innovation research projects.
“The Research Council is pleased that the evaluation is so clear about the potential for development in this area,” says Ms Fahlvik. “Up until now we have encouraged the regions to link cooperation-oriented activities with an innovation research project. The evaluation shows that we have provided funding to some groups that may not be maintaining sufficient research quality in some of the innovation projects.”
“In the next phase of the programme we will apply the recommendations from the evaluation to further develop regional forms of cooperation and structures within the R&D area. We must also ensure that research designed to shed light on and analyse the regional research and innovation systems is of high enough calibre,” Ms Fahlvik emphasises.
The midterm evaluation will be submitted to the Research Board of the Division for Innovation in December. In April 2013 the board will discuss the angle of the VRI work programme for the upcoming three years. The Research Council encourages the regional stakeholders to discuss the evaluation document and provide input on the draft of the work programme that will be available in early December.