Industrial Ph.D. Scheme – Doctoral Projects in Industry

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The text of this call for proposals contains changes from the call text issued previously this year (closed on 11 February 2019). These include changes to the requirements and new templates for attachments to the application. It is very important to read the text of the call carefully. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Purpose

The Research Council has established the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme to boost research efforts and long-term competence-building for Norwegian trade and industry through the recruitment of doctoral candidates.

The scheme is also intended to promote closer cooperation between the business sector and research organisations as a necessary step in promoting knowledge transfer from researchers to society at large, among other things.

The Industrial Ph.D. Scheme provides companies in all thematic areas and branches of industry (provided that it is allowed under the EEA legal framework) with the opportunity to expand their research knowledge and expertise without having to participate in a more comprehensive R&D project.

The Industrial Ph.D. Scheme gives rise to a small but critical increase in the total number of doctoral candidates, and has the same level of scientific quality as the general doctoral degree education.

About the call for proposals

Funding is available under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme for projects with start-up in the current year or by two months into the following year at the latest.

The scheme has an open-ended application submission deadline and applications may be submitted throughout the year as long as the call is still active.

The Industrial Ph.D Scheme is not a competitive arena. This means that funding is not allocated on the basis of competition, but based on whether all the requirements set out in the call for proposals have been met. The call will remain active until all available funding has been awarded.

There are no restrictions regarding the number of projects a single company may receive funding to start. However, the Research Council wishes to point out that the number of projects per company may be limited at a later date.

Projects under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme are normally collaboration projects between one applicant company and a degree-conferring institution. The doctoral project must be based on an issue of relevance to the company, but must be planned and carried out in close cooperation between the company and the degree-conferring institution.

Other actors may be partners in the project under certain circumstances. More information about this is presented in the section below, “Who can participate in the project?”.

The earliest permitted start-up date is the date of submission of the grant application. However, it is recommended that applicants submit their applications well in advance and, at the latest, one month before the planned project start-up date. Projects may be started after the grant application has been submitted and before it has been processed by the Research Council. Please note that any project activities begun before the contract with the Research Council has been signed are undertaken at the project partners’ own risk. Projects that have been started before the grant application has been submitted are not eligible for support. This is an absolute condition stipulated by the state aid rules.

The doctoral project must have a duration of 36 months and can be completed over three or four years. Candidates pursuing three-year projects are to work on the project full time. Doctoral candidates involved in four-year projects are to dedicate 75 per cent of a full time position to the project and 25 per cent to other tasks.

All projects awarded funding under the scheme are subject to the Research Council’s General Terms and Conditions for R&D Projects. More information is available on our website: What the contract involves.

The Norwegian-language call for proposals is the legally binding version.

Please note that the text of the call may be subject to revision, and that open-ended calls may be closed for short periods. The version of the call that is posted online at the time of submission of the grant application will apply for that application. Notification of any revisions to the call will be published in the field for messages.

State aid

This call for proposals constitutes a funding scheme that is notified to the EFTA Surveillance Authority. 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. See the regulation here.

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.

The call for proposals has been approved as an aid scheme by The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) with the reference: GBER 28/2019/R&D&I.

Who is eligible to apply?

The formal applicant and Project Owner must be an undertaking (company) that has been issued an enterprise number under the Norwegian Register of Business Enterprises and that carries out economic activity in Norway.

Companies and public enterprises that carry out activities of an industrial or commercial nature may be eligible to apply for funding if certain conditions are met, but public funding for the public enterprise may not exceed 60 per cent.

The applicant company must have at least two employees in a full-time position. The doctoral candidate may be one of these two employees.

The following are not eligible to apply for funding under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme:

  • Enterprises that are primarily publicly funded;
  • Enterprises not carrying out or not planning to carry out economic activity, including clubs and associations, which also encompasses unions;
  • Research institutes, health trusts and organisations that are defined as research institutions by the Research Council;
  • Sole proprietorships;
  • Enterprises that fall within the target group for the Public Sector Ph.D. Scheme.

The Research Council will only provide support to doctoral candidates who have not previously completed a doctoral degree/Ph.D. The scheme does not provide support for completion of doctoral degree educations that are already underway.

Who can participate in the project?

The participants in a project under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme comprise a company that serves as Project Owner and the degree-conferring institution as partner.

The Research Council stipulates the following requirements for the project and project participants:

Requirements relating to the Project Owner (company)

  • The company is the formal applicant and must fall within the scheme’s target group. Please note that the Research Council may request additional documentation to determine whether the company satisfies this requirement. If you are uncertain as to whether the company is within the target group, please contact the Research Council’s contact points for the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme before you submit your application. 
  • The doctoral project must be of clear relevance to the applicant company’s activity and long-term needs for expertise.
  • The Project Owner (company) must demonstrate the financial ability to carry out the project. This means that the company must be able to secure funding for the entire duration of the project, also in the case of delays, and must be able to confirm that funding for the project will also be available in the case of postponements. Please note that we may request additional documentation during the application phase to assess whether this requirement can be met.
  • The Project Owner (company) is to appoint a dedicated supervisor/mentor for the project and must set aside adequate working hours and resources for completion of the doctoral project. The role of company supervisor is to be filled by an individual with expertise of relevance to the thematic orientation of the project. If the company supervisor does not have a doctoral degree he or she will be defined as a “company mentor”. A supervisor/mentor may be contracted from an external actor if the company does not have the relevant expertise.
  • The doctoral candidate must be employed by the applicant company throughout the duration of the project, and the employment contract must allow for possible delays. The doctoral candidate is to be employed in a full-time position for a period of three years for three-year projects, and at least 75 per cent of a full time position for four-year projects. The terms of the candidate’s employment contract and working conditions must be in compliance with Norwegian regulations.

Requirements relating to the degree-conferring institution

  • The degree-conferring institution has the responsibility for ensuring that the doctoral project maintains an adequately high scientific standard. Under the scheme, the doctoral project must meet the same requirements for scientific quality set out for other doctoral projects undertaken at the institution and must follow the institution’s regulations for doctoral degree education with regard to admissions, implementation and evaluation.
  • The candidate must have been granted admission to the doctoral degree programme at the degree-conferring institution. The admission process must be underway at the time the grant application is submitted. The documents confirming admission may be forwarded when they are completed. The Research Council will not sign the contract with the Project Owner until the documentation has been submitted.
  • If the degree-conferring institution is outside Norway applicants must submit documentation that the degree from the institution abroad is on a par with a doctoral degree obtained from a Norwegian university.

Requirements relating to cooperation and project organisation

  • 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 an Industrial Ph.D. Scheme project are to accrue to the 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 Project Owner (company) and the degree-conferring institution must enter into a written collaboration agreement. The process to draw up a collaboration agreement must be underway at the time the grant application is submitted, but the agreement does not have to be finalised. The agreement must satisfy the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme’s special requirements for collaboration agreements (see separate section below). The signed collaboration agreement is to be attached to the contract between the Research Council and the Project Owner. The Research Council will not enter into a contract with the Project Owner until the collaboration agreement is in place.
  • The Project Owner and partners must jointly be able to provide the candidate with a satisfactory professional and scientific environment and adequate support and supervision for completing the doctoral project.
  • The candidate participating in the project must be designated at the time the grant application is submitted. Funding will not be granted to projects that do not specify a candidate’s name.
  • The candidate is required to spend at least one year at the degree-conferring institution and at least one year at the company during the project period. This also applies if the degree-conferring institution is located outside Norway. Each stay may be carried out in stages as several shorter-term visits rather than over one continuous period. Candidates are allowed to conduct stays at multiple institutions within the university and university college sector provided that there is adequate scientific justification for doing so and the partners in the project are in agreement.

Requirements relating to the collaboration agreement

The company and the degree-conferring institution must enter into a collaboration agreement. The Industrial Ph.D. Scheme stipulates the following special requirements for collaboration agreements:

  • The collaboration agreement is to apply for the entire project period. The project period is to be specified in the text of the agreement.
  • 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). 
  • The names, roles and employers of the supervisors from the degree-conferring institution and the company are to be specified.
  • The agreement must not prevent the candidate from publishing the results of his/her research and presenting them in his/her dissertation. This is to be specified in the agreement. 
  • It must be specified that the candidate is to spend at least one year at a degree-conferring institution and at least one year at the Project Owner (company). The time may be distributed in a manner that is most advantageous for the project.
  • Requirements relating to the work duties on the part of the doctoral candidate must be clarified. This item may also be incorporated into a separate employment agreement between the candidate and the company. In the case of four-year projects, the site where the candidate is to carry out his or her work duties must be specified.
  • Project funding and the distribution of project costs for each partner participating in the doctoral project must be provided.

More information about Collaboration agreements is available on the Research Council’s website.

Requirements relating to collaboration with other actors

The Industrial Ph.D. Scheme primarily targets individual companies working in cooperation with a degree-conferring institution. If it is relevant to incorporate multiple actors in a project, this must be in accordance with the definition of “effective collaboration” in the state aid rules (see above).

Industrial Ph.D. Scheme projects involving the participation of other partners (in addition to the applicant company and degree-conferring institution) must satisfy the following requirements in addition to the other requirements set out in the call:

  • One company must serve as the Project Owner.
  • If other partners than the applicant company and degree-conferring institution are to contribute funding, the applicant company must contribute the largest proportion of project funding from partners with the exception of the degree-conferring institution. This means that the portion of project costs not covered by the degree-conferring institution may be distributed among multiple partners, but the largest share must come from the applicant company.
  • Binding agreements must be signed between all the project partners. These agreements must clarify all relevant issues, including those pertaining to intellectual property rights, distribution of the project results and financial considerations. The Research Council stipulates that a single joint collaboration agreement must be signed for projects involving partners beyond the applicant company and the degree-conferring institution.

The applicant company must have a plan for completing the project in the event that any partners withdraw from the project while it is underway.

What can you seek funding for?

Under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme, the Research Council provides funding to cover eligible project costs directly related to completion of the doctoral project. Approved costs include:

  • salary and personnel costs for the candidate;
  • salary and personnel costs for internal supervisors;
  • costs incurred by the degree-conferring institution (such as supervisory services and office space);
  • other operating costs (laboratory experiments, purchase of literature, conference-related travel, etc.);

Funding under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme will only be provided for project activity that is defined as “industrial research” and “fundamental research” under the state aid rules (see definition of fundamental research here). 

Industrial research means “the planned research or critical investigation aimed at the acquisition of new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services or for bringing about a significant improvement in existing products, processes or services. It comprises the creation of components parts of complex systems, and may include the construction of prototypes in a laboratory environment or in an environment with simulated interfaces to existing systems as well as of pilot lines, when necessary for the industrial research and notably for generic technology validation.”

Costs for other types of activities and measures to exploit R&D results, such as filing for patents, market surveys and marketing, testing and completion of new products and services are not approved for funding. Overarching R&D activities in the company that do not directly contribute to the progress of the project in terms of research, scientific objectives and the production of the final dissertation are not to be included in the budget. 

The applicant company must set up a realistic budget in the grant application form showing all costs directly related to carrying out the doctoral project. The Research Council requires you to break down the project budget into the following cost categories:

  • Payroll and indirect expenses: salary and personnel costs for the company’s staff, including the candidate and internal supervisor, and salary and personnel costs for the degree-conferring institution. These costs are to be calculated on the basis of hourly rates for each individual participating in the project. The basis used to calculate costs, i.e. the costs included in the hourly rate, is to be described in the application (in the specification field under the budget tables). Different rules apply for the calculation of hourly rates for company personnel and for staff at the degree-conferring institution. Please read and follow the guidelines carefully.
    Calculating payroll and indirect expenses for companies, the public sector and other applicants;
    Calculating payroll and indirect expenses for the university and university college sector.
  • Procurement of R&D services: costs related to the procurement of R&D services from a supplier such as laboratory activity, analyses, etc. See What to enter in the project budget for more information.
  • Equipment. Please note that there are restrictions on which equipment costs may be included in the budget. It is important to read the guidelines carefully. See information relating to equipment here.
  • Other operating expenses: costs related to purchase of literature, conference-related travel, other operating costs such as laboratory experiments, external advisers, etc.

Please visit the webpage What to enter in the project budget for more information.

Calculating support

The maximum amount of funding provided by the Research Council to doctoral projects under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme is 50 per cent of the Research Council’s rates for doctoral fellowships in effect at the time the application is submitted (see table below).

Support is limited to maximum 50 per cent of project costs. 

Funding is calculated monthly from the time of project start. The table shows the maximum yearly and monthly amount of support from the Research Council: 

  2019 2020 2021 2022 2023

3 years

547 500

562 500 578 000 593 500 610 000
Support per month 45 625 46 875 48 166 49 458 50 833
           

4 years

410 625 421 875 433 500 445 125 457 500
Support per month 34 219 35 156 36 125 37 094 38 125

The rates are adjusted on an annual basis and may therefore change at the beginning of a new year.

Funding will not be disbursed as a lump sum allocation and will be adjusted to reflect costs entered in the accounts. Funding may not exceed 50 per cent of total, approved project costs. This means that if the costs recorded in the project accounts are lower than budgeted, the Research Council’s disbursement will be reduced so that it will not exceed 50 per cent of project costs.

If multiple partners have accrued eligible costs, a genuine cost and support allocation must take place. Companies that receive funding under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme may not receive support in excess of 50 per cent of their eligible costs. In other words, a single contributor may not received funding to cover more than 50 per cent of its eligible costs. It is thus not permitted to distribute the funding according to approximation, for instance by allocating each partner 50 per cent of the overall support, if this does not reflect the partner’s actual contribution to the project.

Funding is disbursed as project support to the company, not as a personal grant to the candidate.

Funding to cover costs related to laboratory testing 
Small and medium-sized companies may also apply for a grant to cover costs for laboratory testing related to the candidate’s work. Companies seeking funding for laboratory-related costs must fill in the template “Application for funding for laboratory testing” and attach it to their application.

Funding for laboratory testing is limited to maximum NOK 600 000 and 50 per cent of approved laboratory-related project costs. Laboratory costs may include operation and depreciation of scientific equipment, consumables and laboratory-related services. These costs must be eligible for support and comply with the Research Council’s budget guidelines for costs of this type (see section on equipment here: What to enter in the project budget). The laboratory costs must be described in detail in the grant application. This type of funding is disbursed only when these costs are incurred, and will be withdrawn if testing is not carried out as planned.

Personal Overseas Research Grants
Companies that are awarded funding under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme may also apply for a Personal Overseas Research Grant for their doctoral candidate provided that the candidate is associated with a degree-conferring institution in Norway. The Research Council has separate calls for proposals for Personal Overseas Research Grants.

Archiving of research data

The Project Owner (institution/company) 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.

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Relevant thematic areas for this call

The call for proposals is open for proposals in all thematic areas and extends across the entire range of Norwegian trade and industry, provided that the EEA rules do not set any special barriers, cf. the introductory point about state aid.

Trade and industry

Requirements for this application type

The grant application form

  • The formal roles in the project, project administrator and project manager, are to be held by employees of the applicant company and not by the candidate.
    • The project administrator must be authorised to represent and sign on behalf of the company in connection with the doctoral project. The project administrator must approve the application prior to submission and must sign documents such as the contract and reports during the project period.
    • The project manager is responsible for reporting to the Research Council of Norway and is the primary point of contact for the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme. The project manager is responsible for the project’s progress as well.
  • Partners: Remember to list the degree-conferring institution and any other companies or institutions serving as partners in effective collaboration. The applicant company and the Research Council may not be listed as partners.
  • Main activities and milestones in the project period are to include: 
    • required and elective courses to be taken at the degree-conferring institution and any other university/university college;
    • a midterm evaluation at the degree-conferring institution;
    • milestones for the planned scientific articles;
    • completion of the candidate’s doctoral dissertation as the final milestone. The completion of the doctoral dissertation is considered to be completion of the project. The Research Council does not wait for the applicant’s dissertation defence since this may take a lengthy time.
  • In the specification field for the Cost plan you are to describe how you have arrived at the hourly rates for project participants and to indicate how many hours per year have been calculated per project participant. If you have used the maximum hourly rate allowed (NOK 1 100 and/or hourly rates calculated with a maximum of 0.0012 of nominal annual salary) an explanation must be provided.

Grant applications and all attachments, may be submitted in Norwegian or English.

Attachments to the grant application

The project description and other mandatory attachments must be filled in using the designated template(s). You will find all templates at the bottom of this call for proposals. All attachments must be uploaded in PDF format.

Our application process is in part automated. For this reason it is important that you use the below templates and that the header text is kept intact.

Mandatory attachments

  • A project description (template);
  • A CV for the candidate: for applications under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme the candidate’s CV is to be attached, not the CV for the project manager;
  • Information about the applicant and partners ( template);
  • Confirmation of participation in a doctoral project (template);
  • Declaration form for companies;
  • Confirmation of admission to a doctoral degree programme. The documentation may be forwarded at a later point in time, but the Research Council will not sign the contract with the Project Owner until the documentation has been submitted.

Optional attachments

  • Application for funding for laboratory testing (template).

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

Please do not attach any documents other than those requested. 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.

Administrative procedures

Applications for funding under the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme will be processed administratively by the Research Council on an ongoing basis. Grant applications that do not satisfy the requirements set out in the text of the call will be rejected.

The applicant company will receive initial feedback on the grant application via “My RCN Web” three to four weeks after the date of submission. Terms and conditions for the allocation and disbursement of funding will be described. Processing may take longer during holiday periods or if a very large number of applications have been received.

If the application has not been rejected, applicants will receive a letter that may request additional information or require revision of the grant application. The applicant company will be asked to provide a popular science summary presentation of the project in the revised grant application as well as to provide any clarifications or updates required.

The deadline for submitting the revised application is generally two weeks. Applicants may request an extension of this when necessary. 

When a grant application has been approved for funding, we will issue a contract that can be accessed via “My RCN Web”. The signed collaboration agreement with the degree-conferring institution and any other partners is to be uploaded as an attachment to the contract.

The contract enters into force after the Research Council has approved the submitted contract document and the attachment.