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Positive evaluation of the Industrial Ph.D. scheme

The Research Council of Norway’s Industrial Ph.D. scheme successfully facilitates long-term knowledge building in companies and helps them to step up their research activity. These are among the conclusions of a recently conducted evaluation.

The scheme enables trade and industry to better address knowledge challenges by promoting research-based industrial activity and raising the number of employees in Norwegian companies with training in research.

The evaluation was conducted by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) on commission from the Research Council.

Continuation recommended

Ninety-five per cent of the 142 doctoral candidates who have received funding to date are very satisfied with the scheme. Ninety-nine per cent of the companies involved concur. According to NIFU, in addition to boosting research activity and long-term competence-building, the Industrial Ph.D. scheme has promoted researcher recruitment to industry and enhanced cooperation between companies and research institutions.

The evaluation concludes by recommending that the scheme should be continued.

Photo: Shutterstock The Research Council of Norway’s Industrial Ph.D. scheme enables trade and industry to better address knowledge challenges by promoting research-based industrial activity and raising the number of employees in Norwegian companies with training in research. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Strengthens competitiveness

Minister of Trade and Industry Trond Giske is very pleased that the scheme is seen as so useful to fulfilling company needs for new expertise. The scheme also plays an important role in developing long-term strategic and innovation capacity and strengthening competitiveness in the companies.

“The scheme is a way for industry and the state to each pay their own way on developing new knowledge in private companies, enabling them to implement projects that they would otherwise not have been able to afford. We also see that the scheme helps to build bridges between research and industry,” says Minister Giske.

Collaboration between research and industry

For her part, Minister of Education and Research Kristin Halvorsen is pleased to note the evaluation’s conclusion that doctoral research projects under the Industrial Ph.D. scheme hold the same scientific standard as ordinary doctoral research projects.

Photo: Morten Brakestad The first two participants under the Research Council of Norway’s Industrial Ph.D. scheme, Tove Evjen and Mathieu Ichard, with Trond Giske, Minister of Trade and Industry. (Photo: Morten Brakestad) “The scheme provides an excellent way for Norwegian universities and university colleges to develop closer cooperation with industry,” says Minister Halvorsen. “When – according to the evaluation – so many companies express their desire to continue collaborating with a university in the future, it sends an important signal that industry views research institutions as highly relevant partners.”

The benefits are mutual. Nearly 93 per cent of the academic supervisors from the research institutions would like to see more doctoral candidates study at their institutions under the Industrial Ph.D. scheme.

Important to promote doctoral degree education in companies

Director General of the Research Council Arvid Hallén is also very pleased with the outcome of the evaluation, and points out that nearly 60 per cent of the companies that have been involved in the scheme to date report that they have plans to launch subsequent Industrial Ph.D. research projects.

“The evaluation confirms that the scheme fills a useful purpose and is well-adapted to user needs. The scheme is also perceived as flexible, with little red tape. The evaluation gives the Research Council a very good basis for proposing an increase of NOK 10 million in the scheme’s budget for 2014,” says Mr Hallén.

Stricter selection criteria, closer follow-up and differentiated support

Other recommendations from NIFU include the potential introduction of more stringent selection criteria in relation to a company’s capacity to implement a doctoral research project as well as its strategy for applying the R&D expertise obtained. The evaluation also recommends closer follow-up of small companies when it comes to progress, time use and the balance between time spent by the candidate at the company versus at the degree-conferring institution.

In addition, NIFU recommends considering whether funding should be differentiated on the basis of the size of the company, with the smallest companies receiving a higher proportion of support.

“We will consider these recommendations in consultation with the ministries,” says the Director General.

The Industrial Ph.D. scheme

The Industrial Ph.D. scheme provides funding for a three-year period for researcher education for candidates who are employed at companies and who have been accepted into an ordinary doctoral degree programme at an institution of higher education. The scheme was launched in 2008. The Research Council provides funding to cover a maximum of 50 per cent of the doctoral candidate’s salary for three years.

The scheme is funded by allocations from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (at present NOK 25 million annually) and the Ministry of Education and Research (at present NOK 13 million annually). At present, 142 doctoral research projects have received support. Seven of these have been completed.


Written by:
Kristin Dawes/Else Lie. Translation: Victoria Coleman/Carol B. Eckmann
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