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The technical-industrial institutes of tomorrow

To promote this, the Research Council should reward innovation and restructuring efforts within the institutes to ensure that their research becomes even more relevant for a rapidly changing Norwegian business sector.

“One of the report’s key recommendations is that the Government must involve the technical-industrial institutes more closely when developing and disseminating guidelines and objectives for national industrial and innovation strategies,” says Director General of the Research Council, Arvid Hallén. The recommendations in the report are addressed to the Government, the Research Council as well as to the institutes themselves.

The evaluation was conducted by a panel of international experts and encompasses the 14 technical-industrial institutes receiving public basic funding from the Research Council.

The Council should reward innovation and restructuring

“This report will be extremely useful for the Research Council. It is a detailed evaluation that will help us to identify where we should introduce new or improved measures and where we should make changes, says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council of Norway. Photo: Sverre Chr. Jarild
The evaluation panel recommends that the Research Council provides stronger incentives for innovation than is the case at present. This should be done by linking a significant portion of the public basic funding directly to an assessment of the individual institute’s contribution to innovation. In addition, the Council should provide support to institutes that can document how the funding may be used to accelerate the restructuring of Norwegian industry and the business sector.

“The Research Council will give some thought to this recommendation,” says Mr Hallén. “We know that it is more important than ever to promote the restructuring of Norwegian trade and industry and it will be essential to make the most of the institutes’ technical expertise in these efforts.”

According to the report, the Government and the Research Council should encourage technical-industrial institutes with research activity below a certain critical mass to remedy this situation. There is a need for fewer, stronger regional and national entities with ownership structures adapted for the purpose as well as for closer cooperation among the technical-industrial institutes and with the universities.

The report goes on to state that the policies and funding instruments developed by the Government and the Research Council should aim to strengthen the different but complementary roles and responsibilities of the technical-industrial institutes and the universities, thereby maximising the contributions of both sectors and enhancing how they are used.


Essential for Norwegian value creation

The evaluation report concludes that the technical-industrial institutes are essential for value creation in Norwegian trade and industry; this is documented in particular by the impact analysis. By comparing companies that have research collaboration with the institutes with those that do not, the analysis reveals that research cooperation has helped to boost value creation in industry by NOK 800 billion in the past ten years. This is equivalent to roughly 1.1 per cent of the overall value creation in industry in that same period.

The analysis also shows that each crown of public funding received by the technical-industrial institutes in the period 1997–2013 has led to 3.4 crowns in other income.

“Although impact analyses of this type are complex and difficult to conduct, and there may be some question about the robustness of the results, the analysis indicates that the institutes play an essential role for industry and in the innovation system,” states Mr Hallén.


More international cooperation is critical

The evaluation report also emphasises that the Government and the Research Council must continue to provide support for international cooperation. The evaluation panel highlights the institute-oriented STIM-EU scheme in particular. The scheme encourages participation in EU projects by supplementing the public basic funding institutes receive via the Council with a 33 per cent addition to each crown they receive in funding from the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020.

To facilitate wider Norwegian participation in global networks, the evaluation panel recommends that all technical-industrial institutes draw up plans for international activities. Such plans must take into account the size of the institute, its distinctive features in a regional and national context, and the subject areas covered. The institutes should also implement strategies within their area of expertise to maintain a global level of scientific and technological competence.

“The report shows that the technical-industrial institutes on their own are important for Norwegian participation in international cooperation. SINTEF, for example, took part in more than 200 projects under FP7 (the previous EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development),” Mr Hallén points out.

He adds, “The institutes are also important because their partnership and cooperation with Norwegian companies helps to bring the Norwegian business sector into EU projects. In the 200 projects mentioned above, SINTEF had 92 partners from Norwegian industry. This gives Norwegian companies useful and important international experience that they can build on.”


The road ahead

“This report will be extremely useful for the Research Council. It is a detailed evaluation that will help us to identify where we should introduce new or improved measures and where we should make changes. Furthermore, the institutes themselves and the ministries have been given many well-documented recommendations that they can incorporate into their further strategic planning,” concludes the Director General.



Evaluation of the technical-industrial institutes

The purpose of the technical-industrial institutes is to generate more applied research and improve knowledge production for society, the public administration and trade and industry.

Fourteen technical-industrial institutes were evaluated by the Research Council in 2015. The results are presented in a principal report from the international evaluation panel as well as four sub-reports.

The sub-reports are:

  • a user survey of users and institute partners, which measures quality and relevance, the ability to cooperate and user satisfaction, among other things;
  • an impact analysis, which measures the contribution of the institutes’ activities to value creation in the Norwegian economy and the products and services that result;
  • a factual report, which presents information on the institutes’ activities, with figures on income sources, operating revenues, personnel and success in competition for funding from the Research Council and the EU, among other things;
  • a bibliometric analysis, which measures the scientific production of the institutes in terms of the number of papers published and citation frequency, as well as how the researchers cooperate across institutions and national borders.



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