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New research programme targeted towards the municipalities

Research is needed to enable municipalities to meet the challenges of the future. A new programme is being introduced to promote research-based innovation in the municipal sector.

The Research Council of Norway is launching the Programme for Research and Innovation in the Municipal Sector (FORKOMMUNE) in 2017. The programme will promote innovation in the sector by encouraging the development of new, relevant knowledge and establishing closer links between the municipal sector, research groups and other knowledge actors.

Many challenges must be dealt with at the local level

“We know that the municipalities will be facing many major challenges in the future. For example, demographic changes will lead to a significantly larger proportion of elderly in the population in the years to come,” says Jesper W. Simonsen, Executive Director of the Division for Society and Health at the Research Council. “Climate change will affect municipal drainage systems, the energy supply and other infrastructure, and municipal tasks are taking new forms as a result of the rapidly increasing digitisation of services.”

Mr Simonsen underscores that although the government administration will adopt national policies and provide national funding to address these issues, the municipalities will nonetheless have to deal with many of these challenges on their own.

Little research on needs of municipalities

“There has been too little research targeted towards the societal challenges facing the municipalities, and the current level of activity does not reflect the major tasks the municipalities are responsible for,” Mr Simonsen states.

“For instance, there is plenty of research on health in general, but within this sphere little research funding has been allocated to the municipally-run primary health services compared to the specialist health services. This is in spite of the fact that we have known for a long time that large-scale challenges emerging in relation to health and care services will have to be solved at the municipal level,” Mr Simonsen says.

We know that the municipalities will be facing many major challenges in the future, says Jesper W. Simonsen. Will strengthen the municipalities’ capacity for innovation

The FORKOMMUNE programme is designed to promote research-supported innovation in the municipal sector and to expand the municipalities’ capacity and ability to innovate. Specifically, the programme will develop greater awareness and understanding of the framework for innovation in the sector and will build a better knowledge system for municipal innovation. One important objective is to ensure better utilisation of society’s collective knowledge resources throughout the entire municipal sector.

“Projects awarded funding under the programme must be aimed at what it is that triggers innovative capacity in the municipalities and at how innovations can yield a lasting effect,” Jesper W. Simonsen says.

The FORKOMMUNE programme will in principle encompass all municipal and county areas of responsibility and is not limited to any specific thematic areas.

The new research programme will be launched at the beginning of 2017.

Written by:
Siv Haugan. Translation: Glenn Wells/Carol B. Eckmann
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