International research initiatives:
NOK 450 million for research cooperation with EEA countries
Research cooperation is a separate programme area for funding under Norway’s agreements with Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme. These four countries will receive nearly half a billion Norwegian crowns in the current period up to 2014.
Norway’s contribution to reducing social and economic disparities and strengthening bilateral cooperation in Europe totals nearly NOK 3 billion per year for the period May 2009-April 2014. The beneficiary states – the 12 new EU countries plus Greece, Spain and Portugal – choose which programme areas to include in their respective agreements.
Research is one of 32 programme areas that can be funded under the scheme. The Research Council of Norway will be the Norwegian partner in research cooperation initiatives encompassed by more comprehensive bilateral agreements.
The beneficiary states decide
The largest bilateral cooperation agreement was signed in June between Poland and Norway. One-eighth of the total funding under the agreement – NOK 290 million – has been set aside for research. Hungary is also expected to place high priority on research in its agreement under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme, with an estimated NOK 200 million designated for this purpose.
The Czech Republic will focus on research as well, targeting about NOK 100 million – or nearly one-fifth of its total grant – for this purpose. Two of the Baltic countries – Estonia and Latvia – have also included funding for research in their agreements, with some NOK 23 million and NOK 35 million, respectively.
Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania have not included funding for research cooperation as part of their agreements under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme.
Projects led by beneficiary states
Clear rules have been established for research initiatives under the scheme. National research institutions in the beneficiary states are to be responsible for project management, and projects are required to have at least one Norwegian partner. Projects will now also be allowed to include partners from a third country as well.
In addition to funding from Norway, projects must also be financed through contributions from public entities in the beneficiary states.
Research comprises a larger component of grant agreements
Kristin Sverdrup is the Head of Financial Mechanisms at the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) in Brussels and leads the FMO’S work with the new EEA Grants scheme.
“We see tremendous interest in developing bilateral research cooperation with Norway,” says Ms Sverdrup. As it stands now, between NOK 625 and 780 million of Norway’s total contribution will be set aside for R&D cooperation in the implementation period up to 2016.
Generating general knowledge is a major component of other programme areas as well, and many collaborative projects in other fields will stimulate R&D activity. “We expect to see R&D cooperation in other programme areas, including public health, the environment and climate, and green industry and innovation,” she says.
A mid-term evaluation of the previous EEA Grants scheme concluded that funding was spread too thinly over too many projects in thematic areas that were too broad. It was therefore difficult to measure the impact and observe the effects at the overall level. This time around Norway and the other donor states Iceland and Liechtenstein are placing greater focus on overall objectives and have drawn up a menu of programme areas with pre-defined objectives from which the beneficiary states can choose.
“Research on health and the environment will be given priority in many of the agreements. Norway would also like to see greater focus on social science research. This important field has not traditionally had a strong position in many of the new EU countries,” says Ms Sverdrup.
Regulations and administrative routines have been simplified this time around and harmonised with the EU Seventh Framework Programme.
Comprehensive quality control
All parties emphasise that bilateral research projects must hold a high standard of quality.
“All funding will be publicly announced, and all applications will be assessed by international referees. Emphasis is also being placed on finding players in the beneficiary states that have experience in international research cooperation and on establishing joint programme boards with representatives from Norway and the beneficiary state – like we did with the Polish-Norwegian research fund under the previous agreement,” says Kristin Hauge, the Senior Sector Officer for Research, Decent Work and Tripartite Dialogue at the FMO.
“The Research Council has an extremely important role to play in developing the bilateral research initiatives in close cooperation with organisations in the beneficiary states,” concludes Ms Hauge.
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