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Important funding boosts recommended in Long-term plan for research

The Government has proposed important plans to escalate funding for research in its Long-term plan for research and higher education, which was presented together with the research budget for 2019. In general the 2019 budget is very restrained.

“The proposed funding escalations in the Long-term plan are the closest thing we have to a long-term budget covering the next several years. It will allow us to make even smarter, more long-term and predictable research investments,” says John-Arne Røttingen, Chief Executive of the Research Council of Norway. He is particularly pleased that the proposed increases involve more ministries than the previous plan, which bound only the Ministry of Education and Research.

“Norway has 20 ministries with each minister responsible for funding research in his or her own sphere,” explains Dr Røttingen. “So in essence there are 20 ministers of research. It is good that this responsibility is clearly stated in the revised Long-term plan.”

Priorities in Long-term plan provide valuable predictability

The new Long-term plan has adopted Societal security and interdependence in a globalised world as a new priority area.

“The new plan acknowledges the need to strengthen our research effort with a view to Norway’s place in the big picture – how we influence the world and are affected by it,” says Dr Røttingen.

The Long-term plan also clarifies the challenges associated with the green transition and the need for a broad technology development push in all sectors of society. At the same time, the education elements of the plan have been given more prominence.

The Government proposes three important areas for increased funding in the Long-term plan period of 2019–2022. The three main increases – Technology boost (NOK 800 million), R&D for private-sector renewal and restructuring (NOK 450 million) and Quality in higher education (NOK 250 million) – are all broad in reach, encompassing large segments of society.

“Now we can plan while assuming increased budgets for the priority areas set out in the Long-term plan for the years ahead,” continues Dr Røttingen. “This is highly valuable for the Research Council and the entire research community.”

Restrained research budget for 2019

The proposed real growth in research funding for 2019 amounts to 1.2 per cent, an increase corresponding to the overall growth in the Government’s proposed national budget.

“In a time when comprehensive restructuring in the Norwegian economy is needed,” says Dr Røttingen, “the Government really should step up efforts to promote research and innovation at a higher rate than overall budget growth. But it is good that the Government is showing a willingness to boost investments in research and innovation in certain key areas.” The proposed real growth in allocations to research for 2019 is roughly NOK 500 million.

“We would like to have seen public investments in research make up a larger share of GDP – preferably 1.05 per cent in 2019 and up towards 1.25 per cent in the course of the Long-term plan.”

Escalation in funding for priority areas in Long-term plan

In keeping with the Long-term plan, the Government will have a strong focus on digitalisation and industrial technologies in 2019. Additionally, there will be major investments in key instruments to promote renewal and restructuring in trade and industry.

“All the evaluations indicate that public investment encourages the private sector to invest in research and innovation,” says Dr Røttingen. “Increasing funding for the technical-industrial institutes, further investment in the open competitive arenas for trade and industry, and a stronger focus on commercialisation of publicly funded research will all help in restructuring Norway’s private sector.”

New main priority area

In promoting the new main priority area Societal security and interdependence in a globalised world, the Government recommends growth in 2019 primarily through efforts relating to ICT and societal security.

“This is a necessary and very positive step,” Dr Røttingen believes.

Funding for climate and the oceans falls short of expectations

Climate is a priority area in the Long-term plan, but allocations to this area have increased little over the past four years.

“We would like to have seen climate research more highly prioritised in this year’s budget, with its own escalation plan for funding. The IPPC report on the 1.5ºC target, which came out at the same time as the budget proposal, demonstrates once again the crucial role of research-based knowledge in solving these serious challenges,” stresses Dr Røttingen.

The Government has expressed high ambitions for Norway as an ocean nation. The proposed national budget includes rather significant allocations promoting healthy oceans and reduction of marine litter, which will strengthen Norway’s contribution in a vital area. Investments in ocean technology will also be increased.

“Nevertheless,” adds Dr Røttingen, “we had even greater expectations for marine research allocations since the Government has such high ambitions in this area.”

Public-sector renewal and innovation are critical for a sustainable welfare state

“The proposed growth for innovation within the municipal sector is necessary and welcome. The inclusion of a substantial allocation for the national health analysis platform is also good news.”

“At the same time, the overall commitment to renewal and innovation in the public sector remains inadequate, since the schemes to promote it are currently very modest in scope. We hope that the upcoming white paper on innovation in the public sector will provide a basis for the Government to step up funding in this area.”

World-leading academic groups and EU research

“It is wonderful that the national budget is now paving the way for a new, expanded round of the Centres of Excellence (SFF) scheme,” continues Dr Røttingen.

During the previous period, allocations were boosted to encourage increased Norwegian participation in the EU framework programme. But as Dr Røttingen points out, “It is unfortunate that the scheme to encourage research institutes to participate more in Horizon 2020 projects has not been raised to a level that covers the institutes’ costs of participation. This weakens Norway’s ability to take full advantage of the EU framework programme.”

Written by:
The Research Council of Norway. Translation: Darren McKellep/Walter Gibbs.
Published:
12.10.2018
Last updated:
12.10.2018