Chinese-Norwegian Collaborative Projects on Digitalisation

The selection of proposals to be funded is implemented as a two-step process both at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) and the Research Council of Norway (RCN). Only qualified applicants from step 1 can apply.


Important dates

14 Aug 2019

Open for applications

25 Sep 2019

Application deadline

01 Jan 2020

Earliest permitted project start

01 Jun 2020

Latest permitted project start

31 May 2023

Latest permitted project completion

Important dates


This joint call asks for industry-oriented proposals for collaborative research projects on digitalisation, following up the Memorandum of Understanding between China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the Research Council of Norway.

About the call for proposals

This joint call asks for industry-oriented proposals for collaborative research projects on digitalisation, following up the Memorandum of Understanding between China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the Research Council of Norway.

This MoST-RCN joint call on digitalisation accepts research project proposals that integrate innovation based on digital technologies and ethical, legal, cultural and social perspectives, with the aim of developing products, services and processes which are beneficial to individuals, businesses and society in a safe and responsible manner.

The research activity should target one of the following:

  1. Ubiquitous data and services
    Content technologies and information management, deep learning and artificial intelligence, visualisation, robotics, distributed systems such as blockchain 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.
  2. Digitalisation of traditional industries
    Technologies such as industrial robotics, big data, AI and drone are seeing a great increase of application in traditional industries, boosting productivity, optimising efficiency and creating new business modes. Key focus/foci may include:
    • Digital technologies for mining, oil and gas fields
    • Digitalisation of power stations

This call is only available in English.

Who is eligible to apply?

Only eligible applicants from step 1 can apply. See the closed call for project outlines for Chinese-Norwegian Collaboration Projects on Digitalisation, 12 June 2019.

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the project manager

The project manager must have the relevant expertise and experience needed to lead the project.

Requirements relating to partners

Projects are to be carried out by one or more research organisations in cooperation with relevant actors from Norwegian trade and industry and, when relevant, partners from other sectors. The project is to be implemented in accordance with the definition of “effective collaboration” in the state aid rules, which entails among other things that the results of the project are to be distributed between the Project Owner and other project partners. “Effective collaboration” is defined as follows:

"collaboration between at least two independent parties to exchange knowledge or technology, or to achieve a common objective based on the division of labour where the parties jointly define the scope of the collaborative project, contribute to its implementation and share its risks, as well as its results. One or several parties may bear the full costs of the project and thus relieve other parties of its financial risks. Contract research and provision of research services are not considered forms of collaboration.”

The Research Council stipulates that the total contribution from partners that are not research organisations must constitute at least 10 per cent of total project costs. The contribution may be provided as internal work time, use of equipment, procurement of external R&D services (from suppliers who are not partners in the project).

Partners that are defined as “undertakings” under the state aid rules may receive funding to cover part of their project costs depending on the type of research activity they are providing. This will be awarded in accordance with the state aid rules. The ownership of results and issues pertaining to intellectual property rights must be adequately clarified. The parties are to regulate the ownership and user rights of project results that have been produced by several parties in a collaborative effort. This must be regulated in a manner that ensures that the companies taking part in the consortium do not receive indirect state aid from participating research organisations. The regulation of ownership and user rights must therefore be in accordance with the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines for state aid for research and development and innovation Section 28 (c) or (d).

What can you seek funding for?

Under this call, the Research Council may cover costs that are necessary for the execution of the project. These costs must be associated with activities that comply with the definition of ”basic research”, ”industrial research” and “fundamental research” in the state aid rules (see Article 25).

In order for the Research Council to calculate its amount of support, the grant application must include an overall budget based on the following types of approved project costs:

More information about the budget can be found here.

When funding is awarded to a company, all project costs must comply with the detailed description of eligible project costs set out in Article 25(3) of the General Block Exemption Regulation.

If the project is to encompass doctoral or post-doctoral fellows and there are specific plans for research stays abroad for these, an application for Overseas Research Grants may be included in the application. The Research Council also has a separate scheme for Personal Overseas Research Grants for Doctoral and Post-doctoral Fellows. Doctoral or post-doctoral fellows involved in the project may apply through this scheme for support for a research stay abroad during the project period.

Requirements for support

Support from the Research Council to research organisations participating in the project is to be reserved for the organisation’s non-economic activity, since the projects involve research and development activity carried out in effective collaboration with others. According to the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation, such activities are considered to be independent R&D, which is part of the organisation’s non-economic activity. As such it therefore does not constitute state aid.

According to the state aid rules, support to an undertaking constitutes state aid. An “undertaking” in this context is defined as any actor that carries out an economic activity consisting of offering products or services on a given market. When an undertaking receives support to cover a portion of its project costs, either in the role as Project Owner or as a partner in the project, this support must be awarded in accordance with Article 25 of the General Block Exemption Regulation for state aid (Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014).

The Research Council’s allocation for the first year and any pledges for subsequent years will otherwise be disbursed in accordance with the conditions set out in this agreement and the General Terms and Conditions for R&D Projects.

State aid

This call for proposals constitutes a funding scheme that is notified to the EFTA Surveillance Authority with regard to the part of the allocated funding that constitutes state aid. This is support granted to companies (“undertaking”). Funding awarded under this scheme is granted in accordance with Article 25 of the General Block Exemption Regulation for state aid (Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014). In addition, the common provisions set out in Chapter 1 of the regulation must also apply. 

This funding scheme is to be practised in compliance with the EEA state aid rules. This means that conditions and concepts are to be interpreted in keeping with corresponding conditions and concepts in the state aid rules. In the event of conflict between the text of the call and the state aid rules, the latter will have precedence. The text of the call may be adjusted for this same reason.

State aid may not be given to an undertaking which is subject to an outstanding recovery order following a formal decision by the EFTA Surveillance Authority or the European Commission that state aid received is illegal and incompatible with the internal market. Nor may support be granted to an enterprise that is defined as an “undertaking in difficulty” under the state aid rules.

Scientific articles and research data

The Project Owner (research organisation) is responsible for selecting the archiving solution(s) to use for storing research data generated during the project. The Project Owner must specify the planned solution(s) in connection with the revised grant proposal.

  • Project consortia must include at least one Chinese and one Norwegian partner.
  • The application must come from a research organisation, but must have industry participation (both from Norway and China) in the project. Chinese company partners in a project are required to provide at least the same amount of funding to that of the MoST’s grant. Joint applications by multiple companies and research institutes is encouraged.
  • The proposals must include plans for research covering the specified priority. It must also include plans for practical application in the form of innovation or commercialisation.
  • Chinese and Norwegian partners are asked to collaborate on the basis of complementarity, equality and mutual benefit. Both sides should have balanced inputs and work packages in a project.
  • Chinese and Norwegian partners must have a clear IPR agreement ready before applying.
  • In principle, the implementation period of the project cannot exceed 3 years. Personnel exchanges are encouraged within a project.
  • Chinese and Norwegian partners must submit their applications respectively to MoST/RCN. Applications submitted only to one side are invalid. The proposals must have identical titles, partner lists, and short (half page) summaries in English in the proposals submitted in China and Norway respectively. This is to ensure that the proposals are identified as the same.
  • Projects that are dependent on collecting data (in particular sensitive data) must include a plan/timeline for data access and data management, and comment on the risk of not getting access to data within the time plan. For all projects that are awarded funding, the Research Council will ask the Project Owner to draw up a data management plan. If the Project Owner believes there will be no need for such a data management plan, this must be explained. Read more about Open access to research data.

Relevant thematic areas for this call

This call for proposals is open to the broad range of fields that involve ICT as a thematic area. Please select ICT as the only topic for your grant proposal in the application form.


Practical information

Requirements for this application type

General requirements

  • The grant application, including all attachments, must be submitted in English.
  • All attachments must be in PDF format.
  • A plan for personnel exchange must be included in the proposal.
  • The proposals on Chinese and Norwegian side must have identical titles and partner lists. 

All the templates for attachments are available for download at the end of the call for proposals.

Mandatory attachments

  • A project description of maximum 10 pages using the designated template;
  • A CV of maximum four pages, including the list of publications, for the project manager. The designated template must be used.
  • CVs for the key researchers participating in the project (maximum four pages, including the list of publications). The designated template must be used.
  • Confirmation of participation from partners that are not research organisations.
  • 1-page summary of project activities, identical in the proposals to Norway and China. This summary should list the planned activities/work packages and clearly show which partner will be involved in the different activities.
  • IPR agreement

Grant applications that do not satisfy the above requirements will be rejected.

Optional attachment

  • Proposal of three experts for evaluating the proposal

Links in the application form or project description to websites and documents, as well as other attachments than those specified above, will not be included in the application review process. There is no technical validation of the content of the attachments you upload, so please make sure that you upload the correct file for the selected type of attachment.

Assessment criteria

In 2019 the Research Council is introducing three new assessment criteria: Excellence, Impact and Implementation.


The extent to which the proposed work is ambitious, novel, and goes beyond the state-of-the-art
• Scientific creativity and originality.
• Novelty and boldness of hypotheses or research questions.
• Potential for development of new knowledge beyond the current state-of-the-art, including significant theoretical, methodological, experimental or empirical advancement.

The quality of the proposed R&D activities
• Quality of the research questions, hypotheses and project objectives, and the extent to which they are clearly and adequately specified.
• Credibility and appropriateness of the theoretical approach, research design and use of scientific methods. Appropriate consideration of interdisciplinary approaches.
• Where relevant, the extent to which appropriate consideration has been given to ethical issues, safety issues, gender dimension in research content, and appropriate use of stakeholder/user knowledge.


Potential impact of the proposed research
The extent to which:
• the potential impacts are clearly formulated and plausible.
• the outputs of the project address important present and future scientific challenges.
• the outputs of the project address important present and future challenges for the sector(s).
• the developed competence and expected results will promote future value creation, in the industry and/or development of the public sector?
• the outputs will address relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals.
• the project will be undertaken in a responsible manner, with reference to relevant methodology for achieving this.

Communication and exploitation
• Quality and scope of communication and engagement activities with different target audiences, including relevant stakeholders/users.
• Involvement of the stakeholders/users in dissemination and utilisation of the project results.


The quality of the project manager and project group
• The extent to which the project manager has relevant expertise and experience, and demonstrated ability to perform high-quality research (as appropriate to the career stage).
• The degree of complementarity of the participants and the extent to which the project group as a whole encompasses the expertise needed to undertake the research effectively, and provides added value.

The quality of the project organisation and management
• Effectiveness of the work plan, including the extent to which resources assigned to work packages are aligned with project objectives and deliverables.
• Appropriateness of the allocation of tasks, ensuring that all participants have a valid role and adequate resources in the project to fulfil that role.
• Appropriateness of the proposed management structures and governance.
• Appropriateness of stakeholder and user participation in the implementation and governance of the project.

Overall assessment of the referee/panel

Overall assessment of the referee/panel based, on the criteria Excellence, Impact and Implementation.

Other priorities

  • Assuming that all factors relating to scientific merit and relevance are essentially equal, priority will be given to projects that are led by women project managers

Administrative procedures

The proposals will be assessed separately according to the rules of procedure in each country. The proposals submitted to the RCN will be assessed by international experts or referee panels and the administration. MoST and RCN will implement a joint decision-making procedure to determine the outcome of the call as per the existing evaluation procedure at MoST and RCN. Projects must receive a high assessment score in both countries to be funded.

The final decision regarding grant allocations will be taken by the portfolio board for enabling technologies or a person given mandate from this board.

Notification of the funding decision can be expected in December 2019.

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