Collaborative and Knowledge-building Project – Guide for Applicants

Collaborative and Knowledge-building Projects are to develop new knowledge and generate research competence needed by society or the business sector to address important societal challenges. Projects under this application type require collaboration between research groups and relevant actors from outside the research sector.

This application type encompasses two major annual joint calls for proposals, and some individual thematic calls. The requirements, guidelines, assessment criteria and application processing procedures will be the same for all individual calls under this application type.

Joint calls for proposals with the deadline 17 February 2021:

It is important to note which thematic areas are included under each call. You will find these listed under the heading ‘Relevant thematic areas for this call’. Applicants must target the grant application towards one of these thematic areas. If you do not find a relevant topic for your field of research, we recommend checking out the annual research project calls for proposals.

The following provides an overview of the specific features of the application type Collaborative and Knowledge-building Project. A full description of the requirements for grant applications will be provided in the call for proposals.

What does a Collaborative and Knowledge-building Project comprise?

  • Collaborative and knowledge-building projects help to develop new knowledge and build the research expertise needed by stakeholders in society and/or business and industry to address important societal challenges.
  • The projects stimulate and encourage collaboration between research groups and actors from outside the research sector.
  • Projects promote new knowledge and competence-building in Norwegian research groups in priority areas.
  • The research can be of a basic and/or applied nature, and benefits broad segments of society.
  • The projects are either at or close to the research front and should therefore normally include cooperation with leading international specialist groups, thus entailing significant benefits for the Norwegian groups involved.
  • Research results are to be made accessible through sharing and publication in line with the Research Council’s Policy on Open Science.
  • Projects normally involve recruitment positions (doctoral and/or post-doctoral fellowships).

Who is eligible to apply?

Approved Norwegian research organisations may apply for funding under calls for Collaborative and Knowledge-building Projects. The calls require cooperation between the research organisation and at least two Norwegian actors from outside the research sector.

Partners and their role in the project

Applications are to be prepared in cooperation between the Project Owner (research organisation) and the partners representing the specific challenge the project seeks to resolve.

Partners are to be involved in the planning, steering and execution of the project to ensure that the research questions, activities and results are of relevance and benefit to society. See the fact box below on the requirements relating to effective collaboration. Project partners may be public sector entities, non-governmental organisations, actors in trade and industry and/or other private organisations.

Partners that do not normally carry out research may take part in defining the project, discussing issues that arise, providing input as the project progresses or helping to adjust the direction of the project.

Requirements relating to partners that are not research organisations:

  • Projects must involve at least two Norwegian partners that are not research organisations. The combination of partners taking part in the project will depend on the challenge the project seeks to resolve.
  • Partners must be registered in the Norwegian Register of Business Enterprises.
  • An actor may not be assigned more than one role in the project. Some research organisations, e.g. health trusts, may have more than one role: as a research organisation, public sector and/or commercial actor. It is not possible to be both a research organisation and partner in one and the same project. Roles must be clearly described in the project description.  
  • In accordance with the state aid rules, undertakings that are financially dependent on one another, such as undertakings that form part of a group, are considered one and the same actor.
  • Public agencies or entities can be counted as different partners in the project, even if the legal owner is the same (state or municipal), insofar as one entity does not report directly to the other.
  • Sole proprietorships are eligible as partners. However, payroll and indirect expenses may not be covered for the owner of the sole proprietorship. Payroll and indirect expenses may be covered only for employees of the firm. Other costs related to participation in the project can be funded, provided that these can found in the account of the sole proprietorships.
  • Projects are to have a steering committee or an advisory/reference group comprising representatives from the research organisation(s), partners and any other relevant actors. Members of the steering committee/reference group are not required to be affiliated with a project partner.
  • All project partners are required to take active part in the design and execution of the project as well as in the dissemination of project results, and to promote the utilisation of new knowledge.
  • Partners are to provide the project with academic/scientific and/or financial resources.
  • If the project is awarded funding, the Project Owner must enter into collaboration agreements (contracts) with all project partners. The collaboration agreements are to regulate the reciprocal rights and obligations of the Project Owner and partners in the project and ensure the integrity and independence of the research. The Project Owner is required to sign with collaboration agreements Norwegian and international partners alike.

The Project Owner and project partners are to implement the project through ‘effective collaboration’ as defined in the state aid rules (Article 25 of the Block Exemption).

Effective collaboration

A good consortium

In the application year 2020, the Research Council received many enquiries about what can be considered a sensible composition of a consortium. It is not possible to give one satisfactory answer to that question since the composition will very much depend on the topic and the challenge the project intends to address. Generally speaking, however, all partners should be of such importance to the project that they would be difficult to replace.

For many projects, a good model could be to have between three and five key project partners that are well-acquainted with the challenge, have a need for relevant expertise and will ensure that society at large utilises and benefits from the results. In addition to the project partners, the project can also have less formal ties to other stakeholders. A clear description of these stakeholders must be given in the project description so that we can gain a clear impression of the overall scope of the interest and stakeholders involved in the project. It is possible for stakeholders to sit on a steering committee even if they are not defined as project partners in the application.

Projects such as those that need to work with a group of similar actors like schools, forest owners or consumers, may have many individual actors that contribute to the project. If possible, we recommend that one partner, such as a municipality or trade organisation, is the point of contact with the responsibility of bringing this group together. The smaller actors can then be considered their sub-contractors. This arrangement can help to simplify the Project Owner's follow-up of the project.

In addition to the role of project partner, the project can also use necessary sub-contractors. A sub-contractor carries out a delimited project task without obtaining any rights to the project results. A sub-contractor will be paid market price for its activities by the contracting institution (the Project Owner or one of the partners).

You will also find the role ‘R&D provider’ in the Research Council’s application form. This role will be less relevant in Collaborative and Knowledge-building Projects, where we mainly work with project partners and sub-contractors.

Requirements relating to participation and financing

The most important distinctions between the different calls for proposals in the application type Collaborative and Knowledge-building Projects are:

  • different requirements relating to user participation;
  • if participation may be covered by funding allocated to the project;
  • whether or not partners are required to provide cash contributions.

Requirements relating to participation and financing can also vary somewhat within the thematic areas of a call, so please read the text of the call very carefully. The general requirements for joint calls are explained in more detail in the tables below.

Collaborative Projects to meet Societal and Industry-related Challenges

The partners’ participation in the project is important to ensure that the ESA’s requirements relating to effective collaboration are met. Partners’ costs related to participation, or in-kind contribution in the project, should therefore be set out in the budget tables. An overall contribution of at least 10 per cent of the project’s total costs is required, but higher activity requirements may be stipulated under the specific topics (see the examples at the end of the guide). This participation cannot be replaced by cash contributions from the same partners.

Research Council funding can be used to cover the partners’ costs relating to project participation. For partner enterprises, the amount of funding that can be allocated will be limited by the state aid rules.

Filling in the cost plan in the application form 

Partners that are not research organisations must actively participate in the project in connection with developing research questions, implementation or other parts of the project to which their efforts are essential. This means that partners bear a share of the project’s costs.

Costs for partners will mainly be related to personnel hours. These are to be entered in the budget as payroll and indirect expenses. A partner may also have other costs not related to personnel hours. It is important that all costs accruing to the project are actual expenses entered in the organisation’s accounts. See the Research Council’s rules for calculating payroll and indirect expenses.

An example calculation of the participation requirement is provided at the end of the guide.

Filling in the funding plan in the application form 

The project’s financing will consist of the Research Council’s funding and any activities funded by the project partners.

The call for proposals will clearly state whether the partners that are not research organisations are eligible to receive support from the Research Council to cover their project costs, or whether they must fully or partially cover their own costs.

The project partners are not expected to provide cash contributions. Any cash contributions can freely be included in the project budget, but will not compensate for the in-kind contribution requirement described above.

Please note: For undertakings, the state aid rules impose certain restrictions on the maximum aid intensity (the proportion of their own costs the funding may cover).

Partners that are research organisations may have their costs covered in accordance with the applicable guidelines.

Knowledge-building Projects for Industry

Filling in the cost plan in the application form

Project partners will primarily participate in the form of defining the project, through follow-up under way and by disseminating results. These costs are not to be entered in the project budget but must be specified and defined in the project description.

Filling in the funding plan in the application form 

Partners that are not research organisations will not be eligible to receive project funding from the Research Council to cover their costs, and must fund their costs themselves. Funding from the Research Council is allocated in its entirety to covering the research organisations’ costs.

Requirements relating to cash financing

In addition to funding their own costs, the partners must provide a cash contribution to cover a share of the research organisations’ costs. The Research Council’s general rule is that funding may not exceed four times the total cash contribution from the Norwegian partners.

When the project has engaged international partners

Collaborative and Knowledge-building Projects are to promote long-term competence-building in Norwegian research groups within thematic areas of particular importance for stakeholders in Norwegian society. This entails that the majority of project funding is to be used in Norway. However, the participation of foreign research organisations and/or undertakings in the consortium will often add great value to the projects.

Foreign partners will always come in addition to the at least two Norwegian partners that are not research organisations, and that represent the societal challenge the project is set to address.

Different rules apply to foreign actors regarding whether their costs may be included in the project budget and whether they may receive funding from the Research Council to cover these costs.

International research organisations

Yes. Costs may be entered in the project budget and may also be covered by funding from the Research Council. The significance of their participation must be thoroughly described.

International public sector actors

No. Costs may not be covered under the project, nor may costs be included in the project budget. However, it is important to describe the role and tasks of these actors in the project in detail.

International companies and undertakings

No. Costs may not be covered under the project, nor may costs be included in the project budget. However, it is important to describe the role and tasks of these actors in the project in detail.

If the call for proposals requires cash financing from the partners, the requirement applies to the overall contribution from the Norwegian partners. Any funding provided by international partners will be seen as an enhancement of the project, but will not lead to any reduction in the minimum cash financing requirement to be provided by the Norwegian partners, nor will it have any impact on the calculation of aid intensity from the Research Council.

International sub-contractors

Yes. The project may engage sub-contractors from abroad. The sub-contractors’ costs are to be delivered to the Project Owner in the form of an invoice, and are to be entered as expenses in the project budget. 

Example calculations for the application type Collaborative Project to meet Societal and Industry-related Challenges

The example is based on an approved research organisation that is applying for funding for energy research. The call clearly requires a minimum of 10 per cent participation from partners that are not research organisations.

The research organisation has developed a good consortium comprising a foreign research organisation, a Norwegian enterprise A and a Norwegian enterprise B..  There are also important foreign enterprises, subcontractors and stakeholders involved in the project, but these are only described in the project description.

When we calculate participation from the various actors, we only look at the costs of the project. It is the actors’ participation in the project that we wish to confirm. The example project has the following costs:

Costs per project partner per year (amount in whole 1,000)

 

2021

2022

2023

2024

Total

Comments

Research organisation

1,000

3,000

3,200

3,200

10,400

Project Owner

Foreign research organisation

100

100

100

100

400

 

Norwegian enterprise A

200

200

200

200

800

 

Norwegian enterprise B

100

100

100

100

400

 

Total amount

 

 

 

 

12,000

 

The project's total costs are: NOK 12,000,000.

To check that the participation requirement has been met, we look more closely at the costs of the Norwegian partners that are not research organisations, i.e. enterprises A and B. The overall participation of partners that can be ‘counted’ is therefore: NOK 800,000 + 400,000 = 1,200,000.

Participation is estimated to be: NOK 1,200,000  / 12,000,000 = 0.1 = 10 per cent participation, which is within the minimum requirement under this call.

In such collaborative projects, most topics will allow the Research Council’s funds to cover partners’ costs. Please read the call carefully, and remember that the state aid rules may stipulate limitations for the enterprise. We continue our example in the funding plan below:

Funding per project partner (amount in whole 1,000)

 

The Research Council

Own

Other

Total

Comments

Research organisation

10,000

400

 

10,400

See the guidelines for accounting here.

Foreign research organisation

400

 

 

400

Norwegian enterprise A*

640

160

 

800

See the conditions for awarding state aid here.

Norwegian enterprise B*

320

80

 

400

Total amount

11,360

640

 

12,000

 

* In this example, the funding tables are based on the highest awarded support intensity of 80 per cent (small businesses/industry research).