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National budget assigns research and innovation a key role in restructuring

“In the national budget proposal for 2016 the Government is giving research and innovation a more important role than ever in the restructuring of the Norwegian economy,” says Director General of the Research Council of Norway, Arvid Hallén.

“In the national budget proposal for 2016 the Government is giving research and innovation a more important role than ever in the restructuring of the Norwegian economy,” says Arvid Hallén. (Photo: Forskningsrådet) “Given the current economic situation, it is both correct and necessary to strengthen industry-oriented research, long-term basic research and mobilisation for participation in EU research programmes, as the Government is now doing. At the same time, it is unfortunate that key areas such as climate and renewal of the public sector will not be benefitting from more funding,” says Mr Hallén.

Research and innovation for restructuring

The Government proposes an increase in allocations to several initiatives that are vital to promoting restructuring and growth in the Norwegian business sector. The industry-oriented Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA) is given an increase of NOK 100 million, bringing its annual budget to over NOK 600 million. Part of the BIA allocations will be earmarked for schemes that encourage the transfer of experience and knowledge between bright minds in various branches of industry, which may be critical to ensuring that competency from the petroleum sector is put to good use in other industries.

The programme on Commercialising R&D Results (FORNY2020), which promotes innovation based on research results, is given an increase of NOK 90 million, bringing its annual budget to NOK 260 million. NOK 25 million of this amount will be earmarked for student entrepreneurship.

“We believe that the investment in student entrepreneurs sends an important signal,” says Mr Hallén. “We know that students and recent graduates come up with very many promising ideas. This funding can give them the financial elbow room to pursue and develop their ideas.”

The Government also proposes an increase of NOK 100 million to the DEMO 2000 programme, which supports the pilot testing of technology that can help to raise efficiency and lower costs on the Norwegian continental shelf. This may safeguard several hundred jobs in the hard-hit supplier industry in 2016, as each crown allocated under the programme will be matched by at least three crowns in industry support.

The 2016 budget proposal also provides growth for the SkatteFUNN R&D Tax Incentive Scheme.

World-leading research groups

The budget proposal includes a major boost for long-term, pioneering research under the FRIPRO funding scheme for independent projects. The increase of NOK 50 million will trigger a new joint funding initiative in which the research institutions will invest a corresponding amount of their own resources, resulting in an overall increase of NOK 100 million to the FRIPRO budget.

This will enable the Research Council to provide funding for roughly 40 FRIPRO Toppforsk projects totalling NOK 1 billion over five years from the beginning of 2016. The total funding pledges under the FRIPRO scheme in this funding round will thus amount to NOK 2 billion.

The budget proposal recommends an increase of NOK 25 million for the support scheme for laboratories and equipment.

“This investment in world-leading research groups will make it possible to bring to fruition top-quality projects led by our best researchers. This will enable Norway to cultivate a greater number of internationally leading research groups that can distinguish themselves on the research front,” Mr Hallén points out.

The programme on International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research (INTPART), which is a collaboration between the Research Council and the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU), is granted an increase of NOK 13 million in the proposed budget.

Increased mobilisation for participation in the EU framework programme

The Government is continuing its escalation of schemes to mobilise Norwegian researchers and companies to seek funding under the EU framework programme, Horizon 2020. The budget proposal includes an increase of NOK 135 million for the mobilisation schemes targeting Horizon 2020 participation.

“This is in keeping with the long-term plan and will be critical for the ability of Norwegian research groups to achieve the level of success entailed in the Government’s ambitious targets. It is a clear signal that the European competitive arena is to be used,” says Mr Hallén.

Too weak when it comes to climate

At the same time, the Director General expresses disappointment that key areas of the Government’s Long-term plan for research and higher education are not being given enough priority.

“The Research Council submitted forward-looking budget recommendations designed to give us better knowledge to deal with more extreme weather events involving landslides and flooding and to successfully transition to a low-emission society, but our input did not win support.”

“The Research Council does receive an additional NOK 40 million for the Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FME) scheme. This is a very important, future-oriented scheme, but it will take much bigger budgets to meet research and innovation needs in this area and to exploit the tremendous potential for green industrial activity in coming years.”

Too little to aquaculture and the marine environment

According to Mr Hallén, there is too little investment in the proposed budget in aquaculture research and the opportunities to be found in developing technology in the marine industries. The Government proposes an increase of NOK 170 million for marine research, but this is primarily earmarked for increased allocations for maintenance and upgrade of marine research vessels as part of the Government’s one-year employment stimulus package and for enhanced resource-related research.

Renewal and restructuring of the public sector

Although the Government’s Long-term plan for research and higher education has prioritised the renewal and restructuring of the public sector and better, more effective welfare, health and care services, this is poorly followed up in the budget proposal. In the years ahead, there will be a need for considerably more knowledge about restructuring of the municipalities, how to organise and apply new technology, transport issues and dealing with an ageing population. It is therefore highly disadvantageous that so little has been invested in this area.

Cut in development research

There is a reduction in allocations to development research also in the proposed budget for 2016.

“There have been major cuts in allocations to development research in recent years, and this trend has not been reversed in the 2016 budget. This will lead to additional reductions, which is very disappointing. Norway is one of the world’s largest donors, and is spending NOK 33 billion on development aid. Given today’s pressing global development challenges, we proposed allocating just a very small percentage of the development aid budget to research that can promote better use of this aid. I find it hard to understand why this has not been given priority.”

“However, seen as a whole, the research budget represents a milestone, with public investment in research corresponding to one per cent of GDP – even if this is partly due to a weaker growth in GDP,” concludes the Director General.

 

Written by:
Sindre Mekjan Special Adviser sim@forskningsradet.no
Published:
08.10.2015
Last updated:
13.09.2016