Development and knowledge dissemination are essential to employment, economic growth and welfare throughout Norway. Norway has a broad-based knowledge infrastructure with universities, university colleges and research institutes that play a key role in the advancement of regional development systems. Industry is also spread throughout the country with the strongest export regions located along the coast from Telemark County up to northwestern Møre og Romsdal County. These areas are home to dynamic institutions that are successful in the global competitive arena.
The Research Council’s regional policy is part of the effort to meet the challenges facing Norwegian trade and industry in relation to R&D activity.
Norway has a broad-based knowledge infrastructure with universities, university colleges and research institutes. This is vital to expanding regional development systems.
Too little investment
“Norwegian companies invest less in research and development than the countries we tend to compare ourselves with. The Research Council sees clear potential for closer cooperation between research groups and industry,” says Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Division for Innovation.
There is also a great need in the public sector for research and innovation to meet future challenges. Closer cooperation and ties between trade and industry, the public sector and the research community will lead to fruitful innovation environments and knowledge that can benefit industry and the public sector alike.
Diversified industry with different strengths
“Access to expertise and cooperation with knowledge environments are vital to ensuring a competitive industrial sector and an efficient public sector,” Ms Fahlvik states.
“Our regions are highly diverse and we need customised measures to achieve results in the various places. The Research Council’s activities will therefore be adapted to each region’s industrial structure, knowledge infrastructure, potential and priorities.
The Research Council’s regional policy also promotes greater coordination between regional strategies and needs and national resources and programmes.
Mobilising to cultivate winners
“Mobilisation for innovation is a key component of the regional policy. We want to work closely together with the regional actors because we have seen the positive effect this has on regional mobilisation,” Ms Fahlvik adds. “The Research Council will collaborate with the regions, using its knowledge about structures, the effects of cooperation and funding instruments to encourage new companies to incorporate research into the basis for their development activities. We will also work to increase the participation of regional actors in national and international competitive R&D arenas.
The Research Council will be working closely with regional actors to encourage them to engage in research. (Photo: Sverre Jarild)
“We have seen that the number of companies participating in international research projects funded by the EU’s research programmes is on the rise, while others are finding that working together with a nearby university college or research institute is what helps them to move forward with their development efforts,” Ms Fahlvik says.
A strong regional system for funding research innovation
The Research Council has regional representatives in each of Norway’s 20 counties. These representatives will become an even more important resource in the future. Over the past ten years the regional representatives have worked closely with regional actors and helped to focus attention on regional cooperation on research and development.
Regionally-targeted instruments such as the Programme for Regional R&D and Innovation (VRI) will also play an important role in coming efforts.
In order to assist companies in initiating R&D activities, the Research Council offers courses on writing grant proposals and holds project workshops and SkatteFUNN schools around the country. This spring, the Research Council and Innovation Norway held a series of open meetings together to spread information about the SkatteFUNN scheme around the country. Such activities give companies in all regions a chance to learn how to use the tax deduction scheme in their innovation efforts.