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New funding round for Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI)

At least 10 new Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) may be established in autumn 2020.

The Executive Board of the Research Council of Norway has decided to issue a new call for proposals for Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) in 2019.
The SFI scheme was launched in 2005 to strengthen innovation capacity and value creation in the Norwegian business sector through a focus on long-term research. The formal applicant and host institution must be an approved Norwegian research organisation, while companies and public entities may participate as user partners.
“The Research Council is working to increase the gains from collaboration between the research community and the business sector,” says John-Arne Røttingen, Chief Executive of the Research Council. “The SFI centres provide long-term, targeted research activity in areas with major potential for future value creation, and play an important role in the effort to expand opportunities for Norwegian trade and industry.”

The call for proposals to be issued in 2019 will be the fourth funding round since the SFI scheme was launched. A total of 38 SFI centres have been established since 2005, with 24 centres active in 2018.

Deadlines in April and September

The Research Council will employ a two-phase application process for the new SFI centres. Applicants must first submit a mandatory outline (with a deadline of April 2019), followed by a complete grant application (deadline 25 September 2019). The Research Council will issue the call for outlines in January and the main call well before the summer holidays.

Greater emphasis on innovation and commercialisation, internationalisation and the public sector

An independent evaluation of the SFI scheme conducted in 2017 concluded that the scheme lays a good foundation for close collaboration between companies and research groups, that the SFI centres are successfully training and boosting academic capacity, that the research being conducted is of overall high quality and that the scheme promotes researcher training in areas important for Norwegian business and society at large.
At the same time, the evaluation report identifies three areas where the SFI scheme has not scored as highly:

  • contribution to innovation, commercialisation and internationalisation;
  • involvement of company partners and genuine research collaboration between actors;
  • adaptation of the scheme to the public sector.
  • Based on the evaluation report and the Research Council’s comprehensive follow-up, this year’s call for SFI funding will place more emphasis on:
  • innovation and commercialisation, including more clearly stated expectations for the active participation of companies;
  • internationalisation, including more clearly stated expectations for international participation and collaboration;
  • involvement of the public sector, primarily through companies that cooperate with public entities.

Changes to the SFI centre funding model

The Research Council will no longer require own financing from the research organisations or view the amount of any own financing from the research organisations as an important factor in the application review process. The only requirement will be that the contribution from private companies and other user partners must comprise 50 per cent of the annual contribution from the Research Council.

Written by:
Knut van der Wel. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann.
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