Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure 2023

Life Science and Health

Bioresources 

The core areas of bioresources are the production and processing of bioresources from land, sea and raw materials from forests. This includes research that will facilitate the best possible development of bio-based products. Sustainable food production is central, but it also includes all bio-based products such as animal and fish feed, biochemicals and biomaterials that can replace oil-based materials and/or fill other needs, as well as new bio-based products.  

The goal is that all bio-based raw materials are fully utilised in a sustainable way throughout the entire cycle. In addition, there are great opportunities in new, value-creating forms of exploitation and in connections between bioresource cycles, within and between sectors. Biotechnology, nanotechnology and other enabling technologies characterize and drive the development of the research field. Interdisciplinarity and increased use of computational methods and bioinformatics will make the application of these technologies more relevant and effective. 

Sustainable use of bioresources requires knowledge and infrastructure for research on organisms, populations, genetic variation, biodiversity and ecology. This sub-area should be seen alongside 'Geoscience, oceans, climate and environment' in terms of biodiversity and ecosystems. 

The Research Council's priorities for bioresources are anchored in the Long-term plan, which emphasises the importance of circular solutions and safe use of bioresources across industries, sectors and subject areas. Important basis for priorities is also the national strategy for the bioeconomy, as well as the Bioeconomy – joint action plan for research and innovation. Norway has strong industries based on natural resources and relatively significant unexploited bioresources. In order to develop this industry in Norway, it will be important to invest in new, innovative and circular solutions for a more advanced processing in order to utilize resources more efficiently.  

In the future, it will be important to exploit resources other than those used today - new raw materials, feed ingredients, and this applies to both "blue" and "green" bioresources. At the same time, bio-clusters and industrial symbioses (companies/enterprises within a geographically delimited area that cooperate on the use of resources) shall be facilitated. The Government has launched a national social mission with the goal that all feed for farmed fish and livestock shall come from sustainable sources and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in food systems.  

Food and food production 

Food production and food security are closely linked to important societal challenges such as pandemics, war, health, climate and the environment, societal security, social inequality and regional development. Both in Norway and Europe, there is a focus on safe and sustainable food production, and the need for new knowledge and technology for the further development of future-oriented climate and environmentally friendly production of food – both from land and sea. 

There is also a need for more knowledge about the accumulation of pollutants and other contaminants in organisms and food chains, their exposure and the harmful effects they may have on health and the environment.  

In the food and beverage industry, it is important to acquire knowledge that contributes to new and innovative processes and products that satisfy requirements for sustainability, circular economy and public health. It is important to have quality in research throughout the value chain - from raw material production to human consumption.  

Biotechnology and process technology for sustainable food production will contribute to new ways of producing food and enable better utilisation of residual raw materials. Digital platform technologies (e.g. 5G, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence) have the potential to improve sustainable food production – crop production and production. The development and implementation of new technologies, together with common standards for the use of data, can lead to better integrated production in the food industry. 

Fisheries and aquaculture/marine industries 

There are high expectations for the development of marine value creation (fisheries, aquaculture and new marine industries) in Norway. Globally, we see an increasing need for food and new sources of feed, and the opportunities in the oceans are many. Marine natural resources that are not currently exploited can become the source of new industries if we build more knowledge and expertise with modern technology. Increased activity at sea will also require new monitoring and emergency response systems. Better utilisation of ocean data is important both in the management of marine resources and in the development of ocean industries.  

The Government's goal is for Norway to be the world's foremost seafood nation. Research must be conducted on stocks and resources in the ocean, in order to provide new knowledge (and new forms of operation) to ensure sustainable fisheries and fish welfare. Increased processing of fish domestically will both provide opportunities to utilise valuable residual raw materials better and lead to less exports (including ice) and thus provide an environmental and climate benefit. 

It is important to focus on research regarding coexistence between ocean industries and sound management of ecosystems and resources in marine and coastal areas. This is also prioritised at European level through the EU Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters, and is mentioned as important in The EU Blue Economy report 2022.  

Some of the challenges in developing sustainable ocean industries in Norway are safeguarding existing industries (e.g. fisheries, aquaculture, transport, tourism and petroleum) at the same time as establishing new industries (e.g. offshore wind, offshore aquaculture, CO2 storage, mineral extraction, harvesting in new areas and cultivation of new species). This requires the development of an interdisciplinary approach with contributions from several areas including energy, climate and environment, social sciences and humanities. 

Agriculture and forestry 

Norwegian agriculture is a leader in important areas such as food safety, good plant and animal health and the use and export of excellent breeding stock. A stronger focus on research, new technology, digitalisation, restructuring and rationalisation are important measures for a forward-looking climate and environmentally friendly agricultural sector. This is in line with the European commitment to sustainable agriculture and food production systems.  

Climate change will affect primary production in both agriculture and forestry. The transition to sustainable and future-oriented agriculture requires knowledge about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time increasing uptake and carbon sequestration in soil and forests. Good soil and plant health is important to take into account in a changing climate. Norway has its own soil health programme and ESFRI Roadmap highlights the need for research on improving plant health and ecosystem function through an agro-ecologically integrated approach. This approach aims to ensure sustainable ecosystem services while addressing the effective management of harmful alien species. Within forests and forestry, it is important to shed light on how forests and other terrestrial ecosystems can contribute to emission reductions, by exploiting the potential for increased CO2 uptake and storage of carbon, and how we can use the raw materials from Norwegian forests in the most climate-friendly way possible (relevant for materials research/packaging). Biorefining with biomass from forests as raw materials can, in addition to replacing fossil products, contribute to innovation and the development of new, sustainable products.  

In both construction and building materials, there is a potential for wood and other bio-based materials to replace climate-damaging materials and products. In order to make greater use of both wood and other bio-based building materials, there will be a need for both research and a suitable research infrastructure. 

The infrastructure landscape today and in the future 

Within this sub-area, there are several research infrastructures that play an important role in the transition to a green bioeconomy, based on Norwegian bioresources, piloting and scaling up to industry. In addition, there are several infrastructures for utilisation of marine raw materials, processing of organisms from lower trophic levels in the sea and development of feed ingredients. These have a goal of contributing to the development of new biomarine industries that meet the climate and environmental challenges of the future in a sustainable manner. Several of the research infrastructures within climate and environment, biotechnology, energy and process, nano- and materials technology will also be relevant. 

Norway participates in European infrastructure cooperation (ESFRI infrastructures) for research on marine organisms and coordination of computing resources for the life sciences. European infrastructures in materials technology will also be relevant. 

Infrastructures belonging to this area are listed in Part 3. 

In the years ahead, there will be a need to upgrade existing research infrastructure and link existing platforms to increase the co-use of instruments/facilities for better resource utilisation. In addition, Norwegian research groups are encouraged to increase their involvement in relevant international initiatives for research infrastructure and further develop Nordic cooperation. In this area, it is also important to have links between business/industry and research, publicly and privately financed infrastructure. 

The development of research infrastructure in this area must be seen in the context of infrastructure in other areas, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy, materials technology, building construction, health and medicine, climate and environment, and e-infrastructure.  

Among other things, there will be a need for infrastructure that strengthens research and education for the green shift, infrastructure for monitoring and management (sensors, drones), for sustainable processing and processing of natural resources, for research on new cultivation systems, soil health and carbon storage, plant breeding, aquaculture, and for research aimed at the development of new products based on bioraw materials.  

New technology in the form of advanced sensors, automation, digitalization and robotization, etc. can help develop food production, fisheries, agriculture and forestry in a more sustainable direction.  

With an ever-increasing amount of data, it is important to develop systems so that data from different sources can be made available, compared and analyzed. 

Biotechnology 

According to the Long-term plan, biotechnology is an enabling technology that, in collaboration with other disciplines and technologies, will contribute to a sustainable society through green restructuring. The plan points to the central role of infrastructure investment in its success. This sub-area should be seen in the context of 'Bioresources', 'Health and medicine' and 'Earth science, oceans, climate and environment', since several of the challenges and research needs mentioned there depend on biotechnological expertise and methodology. 

Biotechnology is a relatively mature technology with applications in marine industries, health, agriculture and process industry. Nationally, there is room for better utilisation of biotechnology in the health trusts, as well as strengthening basic research in marine industries, agriculture and the food industry.  

Biotechnology is considered to be essential for the development of the bioeconomy, which in a few years will constitute a significant part of the global economy, in line with an increased focus on sustainable utilization of biological resources. They have the potential to prepare primary production both on land and at sea, and contribute to research to meet major societal challenges, such as climate change. 

Research infrastructures are central to future research needs in: food security and food production; plant health, soil health and animal health; forestry and materials research; sustainable feed production; biomass processing; blue-green bioeconomy initiative; aquaculture industries; aquaculture. When it comes to future sustainable and circular utilisation of Norwegian biomass, efficiency improvements (digitalisation, robotisation) in the use of limited bioresources are important. In the development of the bioeconomy, biotechnological infrastructure, expertise and methodology are central. Being able to develop cost-effective processing of different types of biomasses is crucial. 

Bioprospecting has the potential to develop new products in food, feed, health and energy. Research infrastructure related to bioprospecting can contribute to the utilization of by-products and new preservation methods, testing for bioactive substances for medical purposes (cancer, diabetes, antimicrobial activity), bioingredients and for industrial purposes. 

The National Strategy for Personalised Medicine points out that biotechnological methods provide opportunities for better public health through strengthened and more personalised prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Research infrastructure will play an important role in the further development of biotechnological research, as well as utilisation and interaction between health registries and biobanks. Biotechnology is also central to biopharmaceutical production, drug development and the development of diagnostic tools. Norwegian actors should exploit the potential for innovation through international cooperation in pharmaceuticals and health-related biotechnology to strengthen industrial and commercial competence. 

The infrastructure landscape today and in the future 

Available infrastructure for biotechnological research communities is largely based on technology platforms that were established through the FUGE initiative (National commitment to functional genomics research in Norway) and further developed through funding from INFRASTRUKTUR. This includes infrastructures related to human biobanks, bioinformatics/systems biology, gene sequencing, protein analyses, imaging technologies, NMR analyses and biorefining, in addition to super-resolution light microscopy, structural biology and high-throughput analysis of chemical substances. Three of these (within bioinformatics, light microscopy and analysis) are linked to pan-European infrastructure cooperation under ESFRI (Part 3). The research infrastructures for this sub-area are shown in Part 3. 

Further investments in the field should prioritise generic infrastructures that support research in various areas (agriculture, marine, health, industrial processes), as well as infrastructures with many users.   

Future investments in research infrastructure in the field should give priority to upgrading and further developing well-functioning infrastructures that have already been established, as well as ensuring good utilisation of these. At the same time, it is important that new infrastructures of high strategic importance can be financed. 

Data-driven and computational methods will to a greater extent influence biotechnological research and innovation in the years to come. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly important in research and development in the life sciences and biotechnology. It is therefore important to maintain the necessary capacity for services to be able to handle and utilise large amounts of data produced in modern biotechnology. It is important to support infrastructure that supports national initiatives in the field, such as Digital Life Norway (DLN) has a coordinating role for infrastructures in the field. 

In the interfaces with medicine, there is a need for infrastructures that support initiatives in personalised medicine and health industry. The establishment of such infrastructure will support medical needs and Norwegian industry in drug development and biopharmaceutical production. 

Health and medicine 

Health and medicine encompasses the broad spectrum of basic, clinical and community-related medical and dental sciences in addition to pharmacy and health-related psychology. The research contributes to new knowledge within the entire spectrum from health surveillance, health-promoting measures and prevention via diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation of disease to organisation and streamlining of the health and care services. 

Better health and health services and reducing social inequalities in health is a main goal of health and research policy. In the Long-term plan, the objectives are elaborated on in the thematic priority "Health", which is highlighted as a particularly important area in our time due to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the importance of basic research and innovation in the health area. 

The objectives of the national research and innovation strategy HelseOmsorg21 are good public health, groundbreaking research, and more business development. Main priorities include: knowledge promotion for the municipalities, health and care as an industrial policy initiative, better utilisation of health data and increased internationalisation of research.  

Future research in medicine and health will be affected by increased generation of large amounts of data. Therefore, it becomes important to have infrastructure for data storage, management and analysis of large amounts of data. The handling of sensitive personal data is a particular need in the health sector. In the European healthcare landscape, the focus is on standardisation, integration with national infrastructures, implementation of GDPR and cloud services to manage data storage and analysis (ESFRI Roadmap7). 

In order to meet future (public) health challenges, it is important to collaborate across the health sector and between actors, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research, as well as competence and career development. To solve the R&D challenges within health and medicine, we depend on access to basic research infrastructures also in the field of other disciplines, such as materials science and nanotechnology. In light of future societal needs and public health challenges it is important to invest in research in the field of preventive health and future therapies – development and use of new technologies to enable effective treatment of diseases (ESFRI roadmap7). 

Interdisciplinary research in a One Health perspective – the interaction between public health, animal health, plant health, food production and the environment – is central to illuminating and combating several future health challenges, both nationally and internationally. This approach will help to: fight infections/pandemics and antibiotic resistance (JPIAMR), to shed light on the environmental impact of ageing and to develop sustainable health services. 

A strategic priority area in medicine and health, both internationally and nationally, is personalised medicine (precision medicine), both in prevention, diagnostics and treatment of diseases. All 'omics' technologies are important for the further development of personalised medicine. Here, artificial intelligence can also contribute as an important tool for further development of the field through focus on imaging technologies, but also the integration of data to strengthen the clinical use of precision medicine in Norway. 

The Government's Hurdal platform highlights the need to exploit the health industry's potential for value creation, exports and employment. Norway has research environments that reach well in an EU context. It is important to ensure that infrastructure is in place to ensure increased employment and value creation in the Norwegian health industry in the future.   

The infrastructure landscape today and in the future 

This area includes infrastructures for clinical trials in the primary and specialist health services, health registries and biobanks, as well as technology platforms related to bioinformatics/systems biology, gene sequencing and various 'omics' techniques, NMR analyses and other imaging technologies and structural determinations. Norway is part of major European initiatives in the fields of imaging technologies, clinical research and biobanks. 

There is an increasing need for cooperation across research infrastructures, both in health and medicine and with infrastructures in other areas, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and advanced materials. At the same time, there is a great need for powerful ICT tools with high-performance computing capacity and for interaction between existing e-infrastructure for health data. This is important for competence building, and within health data it is particularly important to have national cooperation for better utilization of sensitive personal data, especially for large 'omics' data for personalized medicine. It is very important that all infrastructures for sensitive personal data have privacy by design and that trust and ethical aspects are handled to the highest standards. Specifically, national coordination of consent management and dialogue with participants in surveys and studies is also important. Cooperation with European research infrastructures will also be important in the future, at the same time as Norwegian infrastructures must be adapted to international standards and facilitate international cooperation in connection with both new purchases and upgrades of national infrastructure. In an international perspective, the European Health Data Space may entail a need for data management that should also be addressed at national level.  

There is also a need for infrastructure for data on pathogenic microorganisms' genomes, spread and infection routes for research on antibiotic resistance in a one-health perspective. Here it is important to share data across sectors, which can provide valuable knowledge related to e.g. consumption habits and climate change. This is also important from a societal security perspective, where an interdisciplinary approach to social science and humanities perspectives is required. Preparedness for and management of crises are described in the priority 'societal security and emergency preparedness' (the Long-term plan), and are related to e.g. the management of pandemics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

High-quality clinical research is a prerequisite for new knowledge to be developed and implemented in clinical practice. In Norway, there is a need for infrastructure that covers the entire spectrum from basic up to clinical research.  

With rapid technological development and high expectations for what the health service should offer, the development of infrastructure for personalised medicine (precision medicine) is becoming increasingly important. In order for Norwegian research to assert itself internationally and contribute to the development of new advanced therapies and personalised medicine, it is essential that Norway invest in infrastructure that enables systemic medical research on the genomes, biomolecules, cells, tissues and organs of patients and patient groups. This requires close integration of life science data-driven and clinical research and infrastructure adapted for precision medicine within the breadth of medical sciences. 

Messages at time of print 17 June 2024, 21:13 CEST

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