Open Access Government outlines how research in Norway is tackling key challenges and details the Ministry for Education and Research’s long-term plan

Norway’s Minister for Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen believes that times of economic and political uncertainty require a greater investment in innovation. He called investment in research and development “the smartest thing we can do,” to ensure a more stable future, and believes

Norway offers unique opportunities for innovation, saying: “Our strengths are largely related to the country’s geography, economic specialisation patterns and institutional characteristics.”

The Ministry for Education and Research in Norway has set out a long-term plan for improving research throughout the country. Their focus points include solving ‘major challenges’ to society, increasing competitiveness, and developing ‘high-quality’ research groups. They view the improvement of research as an essential part of the plan to strengthen the economy, especially in the face of uncertainty and recent economic issues and with Norway’s ‘high cost of living’. For the government, these improvements come from public investments. They have pledged, from 2015-

2018, to invest kr 400m in research infrastructure, add 500 new recruitment positions, and increase the number of allocations available for schemes such as Horizon 2020.

Prioritising research in Norway

The Ministry has also given a list of priorities for problems that researchers must tackle to ensure the future of the country. These include:

  • The oceans;
  • Climate change;
  • The public sector;
  • Enabling technological advancement;
  • Creating ‘world class’ research groups.

The Ministry also plans to create a new building for life science and chemistry at the University of Oslo, and upgrade the Ocean Space Centre in Trondheim. In the ‘Research in Norway’ brochure, Isaksen praised Norway’s ‘strong tradition’ of ocean and energy innovation, saying: “The exploitation of natural resources has had a profound impact on our innovation and research profile.…More recently, special priority is given to research related to renewable energy, and carbon capture and storage.” The brochure singles out Norway as a leading nation when it comes to petroleum and hydropower efficiency. However, while petroleum in particular is a large part of the Norwegian economy, the Ministry is also looking towards renewable energy. Three new energy research centres, established in 2011, currently receive KR 9m every year for 5 years.

In 2015 the Ministry published a consultation paper proposing amendments to the Research Ethics Act. This covers day-to-day research practices as well as specific cases relating to the prevention of misconduct. The paper found that many institutions establish their own procedures, with the same ‘core ideas’. The paper suggested that recent cases show there is a need to clarify research ethics rules. New proposed guidelines again emphasise the responsibility of individual researchers to ensure ethical practices, but suggests this system of self-monitoring must be regulated and monitored by the Ministry.

The Ministry also strives for diversity in research. For them this begins with education, from kindergarten through to university, establishing more placement opportunities for vocational research positions and boosting the amount of time spent on science and maths in classrooms.

Norway’s ambition to become a world leader in research and innovation goes hand-in-hand with their policy of international collaboration on projects. Their strategy for cooperation with the EU and Horizon 2020 lists their priorities for participation, including the improvement of social welfare, economic development, and the international success and recognition of Norwegian research. They wish to increase their share of EU contribution, which is relatively low compared to other member states. They are looking to receive 2% of Horizon 2020 funds, which is ambitious, but they believe it is possible given Norway’s contributions and the quality of their research.

The Ministry’s ambitions mirror a spirit of both collaboration and personal growth that is prevalent throughout Europe. Programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus encourage and fund international research cooperation, at educational levels, as well as in laboratories and established institutions. Minister Isaksen has said that research is ‘international in nature’, and that international research must become an integral part of Norwegian innovations. Norway is also not alone in being forward thinking and ambitious, desiring to boost its own economy and ready themselves to face the challenges of the future, in particular climate change and the current landscape of political uncertainty.


Ciara Ruane

Commissioning Editor

Open Access Government


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