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Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI)

Deadline Announcement
Open-ended Mandatory outlines as the basis for applications to seek status as an SFI centre Choose


Objectives and main assessment criteria

The overall objective of the Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) scheme is to enhance the ability of the business sector to innovate and create value through a greater focus on long-term research.

The SFI scheme seeks to:

  • Facilitate active, long-term cooperation between innovation-oriented, R&D-performing companies and prominent research groups.
  • Promote the development of outstanding industry-oriented research clusters that are an integral part of dynamic international networks and that enhance the internationalisation of the Norwegian business sector.
  • Encourage and enhance researcher training and the transfer of knowledge and technology in areas with major potential for future value creation.

The SFI scheme is characterised by broader objectives, a longer-term perspective and a more targeted focus than other innovation-related instruments administered by the Research Council. The scheme provides the R&D-performing component of the Norwegian business sector with the opportunity to take a longer-term perspective, enhance continuity and reduce risk in their research initiatives. For the research groups, the scheme makes it possible to achieve long-term development of expertise through research of high international calibre conducted in close cooperation with companies. The scheme is also intended to enhance quality and efficiency in the public sector.

When selecting centres for SFI status and funding, importance will be attached to their potential to generate innovation, business development and sustainable value creation within the centre’s thematic priority areas. The scientific merit of the research must be of high international calibre.

Other main features of the scheme

The formal applicant and host institution for a Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) must be an approved Norwegian research organisation, while companies and public entities participate as user partners. Multiple research organisations may take part as research partners.

An SFI centre is a time-limited research centre which is not defined as a separate legal entity. The SFI centres may have a period of operation of eight years; however, an extension beyond the first five-year period will be dependent on the positive outcome of an evaluation conducted after approximately 3.5 years.

The responsibility for centre financing is shared by the Research Council, the host institution and the partners, and is regulated by specifically designated requirements and provisions. The host institution and the partners responsible for the establishment of a centre must commit to long-term involvement in the centre’s activities and financing.

The Research Council cannot allocate state aid under the SFI scheme. Projects under the auspices of the centre are to be carried out as effective collaboration between the partners. Companies must cover their own costs and are not allowed to receive indirect state aid either.

All research conducted by the centre, including research funded by the user partners, is to be long-term in nature and is expected to promote increased innovation capacity and provide a basis for greater value creation. The centre’s research results are to be openly accessible. This will not preclude the implementation of measures to protect commercially viable results, e.g. patenting before publishing.

Evaluation of the SFI scheme

An independent evaluation of the SFI scheme conducted in 2017 concluded that the scheme has performed well and achieved overall high satisfaction among participants. The scheme lays a good foundation for close collaboration between companies and research groups. The SFI centres have been successful in educating and employing a greater number of academic staff, and the research being conducted is generally of high quality. The evaluation also reported somewhat more critical findings, however, related to the scheme’s contribution to innovation, commercialisation and internationalisation. It pointed out that the company partners were not involved enough and that there was less genuine research collaboration between actors than expected. The Research Council has reviewed relevant findings and recommendations from the evaluation and incorporated these into the scheme and follow-up activities relating to future SFI centres.

Projects with funding

At present, these projects have received funding from the SFI-programme. The overview provides access to summaries and other key information on all the projects under the programme. (The overview may contain information in Norwegian.)

This programme/activity normally accepts grant applications from:

The formal applicant and host institution for a Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) must be an approved Norwegian research organisation.



Overall budget:

The overall budget for the 24 SFI centres in operation in 2017 was NOK 736 million. The allocation from the Research Council for 2017 was NOK 288 million, which was 39 per cent of the total budget.

SFI Homepage