Norwegian roadmap for Research Infrastructure

ICT

The digital transformation, where information and communication technologies (ICT) are a key driver across subject fields and sectors, is having a profound effect on society. ICT encompasses artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, smart components, hardware, communication technology, the internet of things, software and user interfaces, and digital security, such as encryption, biometry and data protection.

ICT is not just a discipline in itself. It also forms the basis for an innovative and cross-cutting system and is linked to most societal challenges. Internet and digital technologies not only transform industries but also the content of jobs and the dynamics of organisations and labour markets. Digitalisation is a driver for industry 4.0 perspectives, the green transition, restructuring of the private and public sectors and value creation in important areas of society. Norway is in pole position to succeed in the digital transformation, but this is on condition that we succeed in competence-building, research activities and priorities, strategic investments in national infrastructures and innovations, and solutions in the ICT field.

Research objectives

The objectives of the Research Council’s ICT initiative are to build robust, internationally competitive research groups in priority areas, to produce a significant number of projects displaying bold thinking, to increase recruitment and access to sought-after skills, and to link the portfolio to national needs and societal challenges for ICT research and innovation in selected areas of society.

Priority thematic areas:

  • Ubiquitous data and services: Big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things are areas that will bring about major changes to society, create new opportunities and give rise to difficult dilemmas and issues of global and national significance.
  • A safe and secure information society: Efforts will be steered towards specific areas of society and sectors with vulnerable infrastructures of major importance for society, as well as towards building and further developing robust scientific groups in the area of ICT security.
  • Radical, ground-breaking projects: Projects with a high potential for generating breakthroughs and future value creation in the form of new research and commercial or societal value creation.

The white paper Digital agenda for Norway – ICT for a simpler everyday life and increased productivity (Norwegian pdf), the strategy document One digital public sector, and the National strategy for ICT research and development (Norwegian pdf) all set out guidelines for the development of ICT and highlight topics that for various reasons should be prioritised. The Government’s Long-term plan for research and higher education 2019–2028 (Norwegian pdf) (Report No 4 to the Storting (2018–2019), and the new National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (Norwegian pdf) also emphasise investing in basic and applied ICT research and security through an escalation plan for enabling and industrial technologies. The Research Council has made targeted efforts in ICT for a long time. The Portfolio Board for Enabling Technologies is responsible for this area. We also finance research in which ICT is applied for different reasons, including under the Portfolio Board for Health; the Portfolio Board for Democracy, Administration and Renewal; the Portfolio Board for Energy, Transport and Low Emissions; the Portfolio Board for Industry and Services; and the Portfolio Board for Natural Sciences and Technologies.

Existing research infrastructure

Advances in the area of ICT require a wide range of research infrastructures, from development of software systems, powerful servers and networking technologies to laboratories for the development of sensors and circuit technologies. At the same time, many research infrastructures for other subjects and thematic areas, e.g. in biotechnology (life sciences), linguistics, climate, oceans/marine research, energy and health, will be important drivers of ICT research.

Listed below are several infrastructures of vital importance to Norwegian ICT research:

  • UNINETT - Sigma2 AS provides the research community with a generic, national e-infrastructure for high-performance computing and data storage. Sigma2 also coordinates Norway’s participation in European research infrastructures such as the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) and the European Collaborative Data Infrastructure (EUDAT)/European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), while also participating in the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC).
  • NorNet – Norwegian Infrastructure for Network Experimentation provides a large-scale, real-world Internet testbed, where enhanced performance and a robust network are key research challenges.
  • ReRaNP – Reconfigurable Radio Network Platform provides opportunities for validating and demonstrating new methods and systems of radio communication. Higher speeds, the development and establishment of true massive multiple-input-multiple-output (massive MIMO) systems and advanced wireless sensor networks are key research challenges.
  • The Norwegian Smartgrid Centre’s Laboratory and Demonstration Platform makes it possible for researchers, energy companies and suppliers to develop and test everything from electricity transmission from the central grid and electricity distribution network to smart homes and electric vehicles.
  • LIA – Language Infrastructure made Accessible provides linguistic data for development and research on speech and language technology for the Samí and Norwegian languages.
  • eX3 – Experimental Infrastructure for Exploration of Exascale Computing provides an experimental heterogeneous HPC facility for experimentation with exascale data processing.
  • CLARINO – Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure is a common infrastructure for Norwegian language databases that can be linked to European bases in the ESFRI project CLARIN. The development of language technology solutions plays a crucial role.
  • The Health Analysis Platform simplifies access to health data and facilitates advanced analyses across different health registers and other sources of health data.
  • Ocean Space Field Laboratory Trondheimsfjorden is developing a field laboratory for research and development of autonomous vessels and underwater robots. The infrastructure will be instrumental for research in digitalisation and automation and to fully automate marine and maritime operations.

A number of research infrastructures targeting other fields are also relevant to ICT research and innovation, including Virtuell Arena – OpenLab Drilling, ELIXIR Norway – a distributed infrastructure for the next generation of life sciences, Biobank Norway 2 – a national research infrastructure for clinical and population-based biobanks, NorMIT – Norwegian centre for Minimally Invasive Image Guided Therapy and medical technologies and eInfrastructure for Video Research, Music and Motion Lab.

Need for new infrastructure, upgrades and/or coordination

ICT is a core interdisciplinary driver and digitalisation is the principal process now transforming our society. The need for collaboration and capacity sharing among national and international data storage centres and high-performance computing resources will increase significantly in coming years, and will call for the development of new services for easy, secure access to data and high-performance computing resources. More and more research fields generate and/or use large data volumes while technological developments are also yielding greater amounts of data on their own. It is therefore important that the development and renewal of generic infrastructures keep pace with emerging needs.

Developing the supercomputers and data storage centres of tomorrow is a research field in itself, and Norwegian researchers will need access to Norwegian and European state-of-the-art research infrastructures to be of interest when future supercomputers are built using European technology.

A more detailed description of the needs for research infrastructures associated with the three thematic areas is provided below:

Ubiquitous data and services

Research infrastructures are needed that can address societal challenges and develop effective and reliable systems that perform in a way also suited to meet future challenges. This in turn will boost innovation and value creation in the public and private sectors. Examples are infrastructures providing access to vast amounts of data for research and development of artificial intelligence; testing new technologies and platforms for the communication technology of the future, including the internet of things; smart environments and interaction between individuals; and physical and digital systems.

A safe and secure information society

Research infrastructures for understanding and developing technologies and solutions that help to reduce digital vulnerabilities in critical infrastructures and in society at large will be of great importance. Most critical functions and infrastructures are now largely digitalised. National research infrastructures that support interdisciplinary research between ICT and the respective areas of application, and between technology and the humanities/social sciences, may lead to immense changes in how we handle vulnerabilities in society. This applies in particular to the following critical infrastructures: communication networks, energy and water supply, finance and payment, cargo and passenger transport, and health.

Radical, ground-breaking projects

Radical, ground-breaking projects contribute to establishing new research areas, ensuring preparedness for the future. Radical breakthroughs often take place in the interface between established and new fields, e.g. the areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology. Access to experimental research infrastructure is essential in this respect. For instance, research infrastructures for the computers of the future may lead to radical breakthroughs for supercomputers, high-speed computational processing, new forms of interaction between humans and computers, physical and digital systems and data traffic.

Interface with other areas

It is of benefit to ICT research that the general capacity of e-infrastructure (services based on computing solutions, high-speed networks and storage facilities) expands in parallel with technological developments and the growing volume of data generated by research.

Data-driven learning and artificial intelligence represent a research field that brings together ICT researchers and researchers from other subjects and disciplines, for example precision medicine, economics and finance, societal security and media and consumer research. Research and development within artificial intelligence requires research infrastructures with substantial storage and processing capacity that can meet demands for protection of personal privacy, security and ownership of data and results. In particular, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning often require a combination of modern processors with powerful data-parallel accelerators, e.g. GPU capacity and the expertise to utilise them, which is not part of a traditional high-performance computing facility.

Much AI technology (AI) is based on the analysis of natural languages. Robust Norwegian language resources and speech databases are material for developing Norwegian AI products and services. A number of ethical and legal challenges may also arise in connection with developing AI technology, and humanities and social science research environments must contribute perspectives from their respective fields to elucidate this development.

Research infrastructures draw on ICT research in areas such as biotechnology, medicine and health, environmentally friendly energy, and oceans and marine technology. These infrastructures also play a role in driving ICT research forward.

The development of new production technologies and materials for sensor elements and actuators integrated into smart sensor systems is crucial for optimal ICT solutions. Therefore, the infrastructure for nanotechnology and new materials also contributes to the quality of research in ICT.

RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES RELATED TO ICT

Project

Status

eX3 – Experimental Infrastructure for Exploration of Exascale Computing

Under establishment/in operation

Øvrige forskningsinfrastrukturer på veikartet av relevans for IKT

Project

Status

CLARINO – Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure – National node

ESFRI Landmark

E-INFRA ved UNINETT Sigma 2 – a national e-Infrastrucure for science

Under establishment/in operation

HAP – Helseanalyseplattformen

Under establishment/in operation

OceanLab – Ocean Space Field Laboratory Trondheimsfjorden

Under establishment/in operation

LIA – Language Infrastructure made Accessible*

Funding period completed/in operation

SmartGrid – National Smart Grid Laboratory & Demonstration Platform*

Funding period completed/in operation

* Infrastructures where the project period with Research Council funding has been concluded, or was scheduled to be concluded in 2019, do not have a separate project description on the roadmap. You will instead find a reference to the infrastructure's website or the Research Council's project bank.