The evaluation was conducted by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) on commission from the Ministry of Education and Research.
Positive evaluation of Research Council instruments
According to the evaluation report the Research Council of Norway’s funding instruments in this area play a critical role in translating research results and ideas generated at universities and university colleges into commercial products and services. The report also offers a number of recommendations for further developing these funding instruments.
“The FORNY2020 has received high marks. In addition, we see that very many of the companies established have used the SkatteFUNN R&D tax incentive scheme and other innovation-oriented funding instruments at the Research Council, which proves that we have a lot to contribute in various phases of a development pathway,” says Arvid Hallén.
“We are very pleased with the positive evaluation of our funding instruments. It is particularly important to have confirmation that our key programme – the FORNY programme – has been moving in the right direction and is now so well targeted that the various interest groups and NIFU alike recommend more of the same,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council.
FORNY2020 programme pivotal for commercialisation of research
Society has increasingly high expectations for innovation and commercialisation of results from research groups. The evaluation report highlights the key role of the Programme for Commercialising R&D Results (FORNY2020) and its predecessor in cultivating the good ideas generated at universities and university colleges, and concludes that the Research Council’s other industry-oriented funding instruments are well-adapted to the companies that have received FORNY programme support.
The report states that commercialisation-oriented activities at the Research Council, Innovation Norway and Siva complement each other well, but goes on to show there is still room for further refining cooperation between these organisations.
The report’s recommendation to continue expanding the Research Council’s commercialisation instruments is completely in keeping with the Research Council’s overall strategy “Research for Innovation and Sustainability”.
“The Research Council will provide an effective chain of funding instruments to help research institutions and companies to innovate successfully. It is vital to give the actors incentives and infrastructure for the important phases of experimental development, proof-of-concept, pilots and demonstration,” explains Mr Hallén.
More professional, but commercialisation culture sorely needed
Norway’s system of TTOs is much more effective and professionalised and has greater capacity than previously. The TTOs report that although more commercialisation is taking place, there has been no increase in either the number of patents or cooperation with the business sector in recent years. The evaluation report points out that the Research Council’s contribution has been essential in bringing the TTOs to where they are today.
The evaluation report presents the status of and challenges facing the system for commercialisation of research.
In addition to the FORNY2020 programme, the evaluation report identifies the Research Council’s DEMO2000 programme, Research Programme on Biotechnology for Innovation (BIOTEK2021) and Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA) as important facilitators of increased commercialisation from research institutions and companies, and recommends that other funding instruments follow their lead.
The report also shows that commercialisation has become a more accepted activity among Norwegian researchers. But the level of activity is still too low and not given enough strategic focus at the universities. The report points out that the universities’ contributions to their own TTOs vary widely, and some contributions are troublingly small. There is little to indicate that the new rules regarding the establishment of companies introduced in 2013 have led to a significant increase in companies established, technology sales or patents submitted by the universities.
Clear steering signals needed
“We are looking forward to dialogue with the ministries, universities and other key stakeholders on the role, structure, size and financing of the TTOs in the future. The Research Council has made it plain that support for commercialisation activities must be clearly expressed in the universities’ strategies and administration,” says Mr Hallén.
“It is interesting to note – and corresponds completely with international trends – that the authors of the evaluation report believe that the TTOs can become a more integral part of the core activities of the universities. At the same time, the report identifies gaps in strategy, practice and monitoring of such activities, which is worrying.” He adds, “The UK and Sweden are looking more closely at the universities’ interactions with companies, among others. This will provide a pool of useful experience for Norwegian ministries and universities – and the Research Council – to draw on.”
“The Ministry of Education and Research influences how universities and university colleges fulfil their statutory responsibility for commercialisation through the directions it signals in allocation letters and other dialogue relating to governance. The Ministry should clarify which results it expects to see. A first step could be to introduce more uniform reporting of the institutions’ commercialisation activities,” concludes the Director General.
THE FORNY2020 PROGRAMME
The FORNY2020 programme is the Research Council’s programme for ensuring that R&D results from publicly-funded research institutions are brought to the market by providing support to newly-established companies and Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs). The programme:
Awards funding for activities to make research results investor-ready, including proof-of-concept activities and documentation of results;
Was established in 1995 as the FORNY programme and continued as the FORNY2020 programme from 2011;
Has helped to start over 500 new companies and procure over 600 licences since its launch;
Has a budget of approximately NOK 200 million for 2015.