The Research Council’s Large-scale Programme on Core Competence and Value Creation in ICT (VERDIKT) concludes at the end of 2014. The new large-scale initiative on information technology and digital innovation (IKTPLUSS) will take a more integrated approach to ICT research than its predecessor.
“The IKTPLUSS initiative is planned as the first in a series of similar PLUSS initiatives that will be introduced in areas requiring a long-term, integrated perspective across a wide variety of stakeholders and sectors,” explained Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Division for Innovation, when the initiative was presented to representatives of research institutions, companies and public sector actors taking part in the Research Council’s ICT conference on 12 November.
The VERDIKT programme has been the Research Council’s largest dedicated initiative for ICT research, but a majority of the ICT research funded by the Council has been carried out under the scheme for the various types of centres (the Centres of Excellence (SFF), the Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) and the Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FME)), as well as the Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA), a wide range of thematically oriented programmes and via the SkatteFUNN R&D Tax Incentive Scheme.
“The IKTPLUSS initiative will link together activities under the various programmes and schemes and place our activities in an overall context with other national and international initiatives,” says Ms Fahlvik.
The new initiative has objectives relating to high scientific merit, pioneering research, recruitment, innovation and the application of ICT solutions in the industrial and public sectors.
“Research activities under the IKTPLUSS initiative must be targeted towards these objectives. To achieve this, we will need to use a wide range of funding instruments actively and dynamically, and we will need to be flexible and able to change directions quickly,” explains André Fossen Mlonyeni, senior adviser at the Research Council. Mr Mlonyeni is heading the IKTPLUSS initiative.
The initiative will be launched in 2015 with an annual budget of approximately NOK 150 million. In addition to its own calls for proposals, the IKTPLUSS initiative will provide ICT-earmarked funding for other programmes and schemes. This will include joint calls with the activities such as the SFF scheme and the BIA programme, potential establishment of dedicated researcher schools and the possibility of earmarked funding to promote participation in the new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020.
“We want to combine a dynamic approach with predictability. When the IKTPLUSS initiative starts up in 2015 we will present a two-year plan for funding announcements”, says Mr Mlonyeni, who invites all interested parties to submit input and get involved in the new undertaking.
An evaluation of the VERDIKT programme carried out in 2013 concluded that the VERDIKT programme has enhanced the quality of Norwegian ICT research in the course of its ten years of activity.
“Strong links have been forged between research and innovation in the VERDIKT programme. We have also created a framework for interdisciplinary research across technology fields, social sciences, the humanities and medicine. As a result, Norwegian groups should now be well equipped to take part in projects under Horizon 2020,” says Tanja Storsul, chair of the VERDIKT programme board.
Since 2010, the primary thematic focus of the programme has been the Future Internet, comprising the three thematic priority areas of Social Networks, Mobile Internet and the Internet of Things. This has corresponded closely with the priorities in the EU.
In the course of its ten-year programme period, the VERDIKT programme has allocated approximately NOK 1.2 billion in funding, which in turn triggered an additional NOK 600 million from trade and industry, to fund close to 300 projects.
The Government’s long-term plan for research and higher education (in Norwegian) clearly emphasises the important role of ICT research and advanced ICT expertise.
Enabling technologies have been highlighted as one of six priority areas, and ICT is identified as a critical factor for value-creation in both the public and the private sectors. The Government’s national budget proposal for 2015 contains an increase for the Research Council’s dedicated ICT activities as well as for the BIA programme and the SkatteFUNN scheme, which in practice fund much of Norwegian ICT research.
Paul Chaffey, State Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation stresses the importance of high-level ICT research for finding solutions to challenges to society in areas such as transport, child welfare and care services for the elderly. He cites the Government’s national strategy for ICT R&D from 2013 as a key part of the political foundation to build on.
The wide support among government authorities is considered very positive by the Research Council. “ICT has now clearly been placed on the research and innovation policy agenda,” states Anne Kjersti Fahlvik. “This is an important sign, oriented towards the future, that adds momentum to the launch of the IKTPLUSS initiative and participation in the ICT initiative under Horizon 2020,” she concludes.