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ERAWATCH

Platform on Research and Innovation policies and systems

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Country Highlights

Launching of a “Public Sector PhD”...
Norway 18/03/2014
A first call for proposals for a new “Public Sector PhD” scheme is planned for the first half of...
Bibliometric Study in Support of...
Norway 12/02/2014
A bibliometric study in support of Norway’s strategy for international research...
New government in Norway
Norway 31/10/2013
  Following the general elections on 9 September 2013, Jens Stoltenberg tendered the resignation...
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Research Council of Norway

Norges forskningsråd |

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Shortname
 
RCN (NFR)
Head Office
 
Stensberggt. 26 P.O.Box 2700 St. Hanshaugen, 0131 Oslo, Norway
Offices/Branches
 
Yes, regional representatives located in the offices of Innovation Norway.
International Representation
 
No
Mission
 

The Research Council of Norway is a national strategic body and funding agency for research and innovation activities. The Research Council covers all fields of research and innovation and works together with research institutions as well as the private and public sectors to reach the national financial goals and quality targets set in this area. The Research Council plays a vital role in developing and implementing the country's national research strategy. It acts as:

  • a government adviser, identifying present and future needs for knowledge and research, and recommending national priorities; 
  • a funding agency for research programmes and independent projects, strategic programmes at research institutions, and Norwegian participation in international research activities. The Research Council has an annual budget of  approximately €5.7b (NOK4,5b) and utilises specifically-targeted funding schemes to help translate national research policy goals into action. 
  • a co-ordinator, initiating networks and promoting co-operation between research  institutions, ministries, business and industry, public agencies and enterprises, other sources of funding, and users of research.
Status
 
Other public
Activities
 
Research funder
Research policy advisory body
Intermediary
Main activity
 

The Research Council of Norway (RCN) plays a central role in Norwegian research. The mandate of the Council is to promote and support basic, strategic and applied research in all areas of science, technology, medicine and the humanities. Important goals include advising the Ministry on national research policy issues, raising the general level of the understanding of research in society as a whole and supporting innovation in all sectors and branches of industry.

The Research Council of Norway identifies research areas of strategic importance for the country, allocates research funds and evaluates the resulting research. The Council is also the principal research policy adviser to the government, and it acts as a meeting-place and network-builder for Norwegian research.

The Research Council is organised in four research divisions, one division for administrative affairs and one international unit organised directly under the Director General.

Research funder
 
The Research Council works together with research institutions as well as the private and public sector to reach financial and quality targets in Norwegian research and innovation policies.
Research policy advisory body
 
The Research Council of Norway is a national strategic and funding agency for research activities. The Council serves as the advisory body on research policy issues for the Ministry of Education.
Intermediary
 
It is the task of the Research Council to identify Norway's research needs and recommend national priorities. The Council utilises specifically-targeted funding schemes to help translate national research policy goals into action. The Research Council is acting as a meeting place for those who fund, carry out and utilise research.
Background
 

The Norwegian Research Council for Scientific and Industrial research (NTNF), under the Ministry of Trade and Industry (NHD), and the Norwegian Research Council for Agriculture (NLVF), under the Ministry of Agriculture (LD) was established in 1946. In 1949 a council for basic research was set up: the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities (NAVF). NAVF was organised in four sub-councils: medical, natural science, social science and humanities. 

In 1970 a proposal was put forward to establish a single research council, but was turned down due to its “centralist” character. However, a need for a reform in the research council structure was repeatedly mentioned during the 1980s. The need for ‘strategic agencies’ was emphasised, with the capacity of mediating between the political and the institutional level. The relationship was handled through the ‘Langslet doctrine’ in the early 1980s, bringing in the principle of mediating between ministries and research. The ministries roles were to define research budgets and not buy research needed to support policy development directly. Norwegian research had a growth period in the latter half of the 1980s. Public funds for research were originally channeled through four “growth areas” which became nine so-called ‘main target areas’ (hovedinnsatsområder). These were cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral fields, which involved several ministries and research councils. A complex organisation with national committees for strategy development, co-operation and co-ordination was set up to cope with their cross-disciplinary nature.

In 1990 the Grøholt committee was set up to examine the research council structure. They reported in 1991 that there should be a single research council. There should be a better integration of basic and applied research and a professionalized research management. There was agreement on the general lines of the Grøholt report, but conflict on the divisional organisation. In February 1992 the major research ministries had reached a compromise upon the new research council; constituting in the six sub divisions (områdestyrer) that became the 1993-organisation model

  • The Bio-production and Processing Division (BF)
  • The Culture and Society Division (KS)
  • The Environment and Development Division (MU)
  • The Industry and Energy Division (IE)
  • The Medicine and Health Division (MH)
  • The Science and Technology Division (NT) The government had some other proposals than the Grøholt committee regarding the institutional model.

A white paper in June 1992 said that the Government should appoint the Executive Board, but that the Executive Board itself should appoint divisional boards. The Government was also of the opinion that the research policy council was not necessary; this should be a part of the tasks of the new research council. The White Paper emphasized in particular the unified nature of the council with the unified organisation of the council’s administration. RCN was formally established on the first of January 1993.

Main Structure
 

The Research Council of Norway is a national strategic body and funding agency for research and innovation activities. The Research Council covers all fields of research and innovation and works together with research institutions as well as the private and public sectors to reach the national financial goals and quality targets set in this area.


The Research Council comprises four research divisions:

  • Division for Science
  • Division for Energy,Resources and the Environment
  • Division for Society and Health
  • Division for Innovation 

In addition, there is one administrative division:

  • the Division for Administrative Affairs 

The Director General’s executive staff is responsible for coordinating activities relating to budget planning, annual reports, statistics, strategic initiatives, international cooperation and media contact.

The Executive Board of the Research Council consists of seven members and two deputy members and is responsible for the Council's policy at the national level. Three research boards, one for each research division, advise and report to the Executive Board.

Component Organisations (if any)
 

The Research Council comprises for research divisions and one administrative division.

The Division for Science is responsible for strategic development of the universities, university colleges and independent research institutes.  

The Division for Energy, Resources and the Environment is responsible for research and innovation targeting national and global challenges associated with the energy, petroleum, climate, polar, environmental and marine resources sectors.  

The Division for Society and Health is responsible for promoting research and innovation targeted towards meeting global and national societal challenges related to health, welfare, education and social  organisation.

The Division for Innovation is responsible for mobilising and funding research within and for Norwegian trade and industry. The division performs analyses and develops strategies for trade and industry-related thematic areas as well as for the innovation system as a whole.  

Year
 
2011
Number of Employees
 
400
Research policy priorities
 

The Research Council of Norway gives priority to basic research in all disciplines as well as to four stipulated target areas (Strategy for the Research Council of Norway): marine research, medicine and public health, ICT, and research in the interface between environment and energy issues. Additional priority areas include petroleum, materials and biotechnology research.

The Research Council has also launched a variety of initiatives. These include the establishment of 13 Centres of Excellence and seven large-scale research programmes that encompass basic research, industry oriented research and research for policy development and public administration in priority areas. The Research Council funds independent initiatives in social science and humanities research, which also comprise an important element of several of the large-scale programmes.

As part of the effort to realise the stated research policy objectives for the period leading up to 2010, the Research Council has defined six strategic goals for its activities. The associated performance targets stated in the strategy indicate what the Research Council hopes to achieve, and the actions listed under each goal specify how the Research Council plans to ensure a successful outcome.
The strategy document of Research Council of Norway describes the actions that the Research Council will take to fulfil the objectives set out in the research policy of the Norwegian Government.

The strategy formulates five main goals for the Research Council:

  • Enhanced quality in research
  • Increased research for innovation
  • Expanded dialogue between research and society
  • Increased internationalisation of Norwegian research
  • Do more to foster talent


The strategy will be implemented in cooperation with the various participants in the research system, all of whom have participated in its development and design, and applies since the period from 2004 - 2010. It is operationalised through long-term budget planning, actions plans and annual working programmes. For every goal the strategy describes challenges, performance targets and concrete actions related to the three principal tasks of the Research council:

  • to serve as an advisory body on research strategy issues
  • to finance research
  • to create meeting places and networking opportunities for relevant players from research, trade and industry and the public sector.
Main Policy Priorities
1.2.1 Strategic Research policies (long-term research agendas)
Other Policy Priorities
1.3.1 Cluster framework policies
1.3.2 Horizonal measures in support of financing
2.1.1 Policy measures concering excellence, relevance and management of research in Universities
Sectoral priorities
 

No sectoral priorities.

Geographic priorities
 

No geographic priorities.

Financing priorities
 
Grants
Development of Priorities
 

The strategy and thereby the priorities of the Research Council (Research Expands frontiers) is influenced by the priorities spelled out in the latest White paper on Research (at the time of writing the strategy, 2004). The strategy of the Council shows what the Council in the period from 2004-2010 will do to realise the objectives set by the Government and the Parliament in relation to the Norwegian research policy. In the development of the strategy and priorities of the Council all the other actors in the research system have been taking part.

Targets
 
Universities
Public research organisation
Government
Not for profit
Last available data
 
2011
Total annual budget in Euro
 
906 250 000
Total annual budget in national currency
 
7 250 000 000
Currency transformation method
 
8
Source of funds
 

Total income from Ministries in per cent for 2009:  
Ministry of Trade and Industry: 20%
Ministry of Education and Research: 24%
Ministry of Petroleum and Energy: 9%
Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs: 5%
Ministry of Agriculture and Food: 7%
Ministry of the Environment: 5%
Ministry of Government Administration and Reform: 2%
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 3%
Ministry of Health and Care Services: 4%
Ministry of Transport and Communications: 3%

Innovaiton and Research Fund: 15%

Misc: 1%

Expenditure/Destination of funds
 

Distribution of funds in 2011:

  • Programes: €422m (NOK3375m)
  • Individual projects:€98.2m (NOK786m)
  • Infrastructure and institutional measures: €260m (NOK2079m)
  • Support of networks: €52.5m (NOK420m)

 


 

Funding cycles
 

The Research Council of Norway gets funding mainly from the Government on an annual basis.

Evaluation and review
 

Evaluation 2001

Technopolis delivered its evaluation of the Research Council of Norway in December 2001 (A Singular Council - Evaluation of the Research Council of Norway). The evaluators were in part very critical of the activities of this institution, arguing that the RCN has not been able to coordinate Norwegian research as originally planned in 1993, when the former 5 research councils were united in this new institution. This can partly be explained by a lack of funding and coordination at ministerial level (as the evaluators explain), but the Research Council itself has also found it hard to coordinate its own internal activities. In one report, focusing on the Industry and Energy Division, the evaluators argue that the Council should be split into two – an Innovation Agency (i.e. the Industry and Energy Division) and a Research Council. The main report, however, argues that 'the experiment' with one council should continue, though with a different internal structure.

Some of the main conclusions are summarised below:

  • The amount and quality of policy advice that RCN has been able to offer Government has improved over time. However, RCN could usefully ask more searching questions in its advisory function (for example, about the balance of effort and scale among the different actors in the research-performing system).
  • RCN has a wide network of contacts with industry and the public service. It is less well connected to other stakeholder groups in society.
  • RCN has put a set of quality procedures in place which aim to ensure that it funds research that has high scientific quality and that significant parts of its budget are spent on work that is socially relevant – both in the short and the long term. A lot of the work it funds is fundamental, the evaluators note and add that there is probably scope to focus this activity more in areas which have strategic relevance. Better integration between applied and more fundamental research would require more policy experimentation than RCN so far has been able to undertake.
  • RCN was charged with a special strategic responsibility for most of the research institute sector, but was only to a limited extent given the resources and freedom needed to exercise that role. However, it has achieved increased clarity about funding principles, tidying up the system and setting sensible rules.
  • RCN has been very active in setting up bilateral international agreements, few of which have much content, according to the evaluation team. However, it has provided financial and coaching support to bring the Norwegian research community into the EU programmes. Recently, it has started involving an international dimension in many of its activities, such as PhD funding.
  • RCN operates in a wide range of processes. There is probably greater diversity than is actually necessary, the evaluators note, and transparency would be served by greater consistency. Even with this diversity, RCN’s administrative costs do not appear excessive. If anything, the council is under-staffed.
  • Evaluation is not properly connected to the work of the council. Evaluations have too little follow-up, according to the report, and are hardly carried through into organisational learning.
  • There is an overall board for the RCN as well as separate boards for each of the six divisions. According to the report, the divisions and the Executive Boards appear to inhabit parallel universes, talking to different groups outside the council while having separate concerns inside.


On 28 May 2002, the Government announced that the Research Council would not be split into two or more organisations.

Evaluation report

A new comprehensive evaluation of the RCN is underway and will be published in August 2012.

Website in original language
Website in English
Correspondent name
 
Lisa Scordato
Document Date
 
27/04/2009

Country Highlights

Launching of a “Public Sector PhD”...
Norway 18/03/2014
A first call for proposals for a new “Public Sector PhD” scheme is planned for the first half of...
Bibliometric Study in Support of...
Norway 12/02/2014
A bibliometric study in support of Norway’s strategy for international research...
New government in Norway
Norway 31/10/2013
  Following the general elections on 9 September 2013, Jens Stoltenberg tendered the resignation...
Cip logo Cip logo
 

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