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The institute sector

Research institutes comprise a key component of the Norwegian research and innovation system, and contribute widely to the achievement of national research policy objectives. The Research Council of Norway has responsibility for strategic planning in the institute sector.

The overall objective of the research institutes is to deliver high-quality, applied research results of relevance to trade and industry, the public administration and society at large in the market for commissioned research. The institute sector is also responsible for knowledge development in national priority areas and for fostering innovation, particularly with a view to linking basic and applied research.

Large, diverse sector

Measured by number of institutes, the Norwegian institute sector is large compared to many other countries, as well as highly diversified. The scientific focus, tasks, users, organisation, financing and historical background of the research institutes vary widely.

It is common to distinguish between research institutes, where research and development (R&D) is the main activity, and institutions at which R&D is carried out as one of several areas of activity, but accounts for less than half the institution’s overall activity. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Statistics Norway and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health are examples of public institutions that conduct extensive research activity of critical importance for Norway, but which are not defined as research institutes because research is not one of their primary tasks.

Special strategic responsibility

The state provides basic funding to 48 research institutes each year under the public funding scheme administered by the Research Council. These institutes are classified into four categories:

1. Technical-industrial institutes

2. Primary industry institutes  

3. Social science institutes

4. Environmental institutes  

Conducts one-fourth of Norwegian research

According to figures from the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), the institute sector carried out research and development (R&D) activity totalling NOK 10.3 billion in 2009. This is 24 per cent of all R&D activity carried out in Norway. Nearly one-half of the funding allocated by the Research Council and one-third of overall public R&D funding is allocated to research institutes. Thus, an efficient, well-functioning institute sector is essential for achieving research policy objectives, and plays a crucial role in certain areas of sectoral policy.

The Division for Science is responsible for research institute policy, as well as for allocations to and scientific follow-up of all the institutes.

The Research Council is responsible for conducting evaluations of the research institutes receiving allocations under the public basic funding scheme. For more information, see the Research Council’s webpage on institute evaluations.