Economic and Labour-market Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Norwegian Business and Working Life

Completed

This is an emergency call for proposals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Projects are to be of relatively short duration, and must be completed by autumn 2022. It is possible to create and submit grant applications from now and up to the submission deadline.

Purpose

The purpose of this call for proposals is to fund research on the economic ramifications for Norwegian business and working life of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s measures to limit the spread of infection with the ensuing economic consequences.

Research activities may focus on the pandemic and the measures implemented separately or within a unified context. Projects may also revolve around the measures/changes to rules introduced by the authorities within labour-market and welfare policy and the resulting impacts.

There is already evidence of a significant impact on the activity level in various industries and cooperation along supply chains, as well as of changes in travel patterns and consumer behaviour. The Government has implemented measures that limit or suspend normal activity and has introduced compensation schemes on an unprecedented scale. The projects to be funded under this call will provide a means of collating real-time experience from this type of disruptive change in market and framework conditions, and of generating insight into and learning about the impacts that may prove useful to society further down the line.

For Researcher Projects on macroeconomic challenges, please refer to the separate call for proposals.

Important dates

28 Apr 2020

Date call is made active

27 May 2020

Application submission deadline

01 Sep 2020

Announcement of funding awards will be published by this date at the latest.

01 Sep 2020

Earliest permitted project start

01 Dec 2020

Latest permitted project start

01 Dec 2022

Latest permitted project completion

Important dates

About the call for proposals

Unique opportunity to study disruptive changes in real time
The infection control measures designed to contain and stop the COVID-19 pandemic entail a specifically timed disruption that is having dramatic consequences for Norwegian society. The authorities have also implemented significant support measures in record time to alleviate economic difficulties for the business community, labour markets and individuals.

This means that there is a window of opportunity ahead to employ targeted research methods for real-time investigation of significant, rapid and unpredictable changes for business, working life and society. Such real-time research will be of relevance in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic and will help to build knowledge for dealing with similar events in the future.

Research questions
Initially, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been most pronounced for the transport industry, the tourism/hospitality and services industries, culture and entertainment and other services, and for companies that rely on international supplier networks. However, the impacts are quickly spreading to other segments of the economy. 

The just-in-time-principle dictates that companies do not maintain a buffer inventory for production. Nor does Norway have national preparedness stocks for all types of products, and this affects the national supply situation, including in areas vital for life and health. It is not just the companies themselves that are affected; their employees lose income, and customers lose access to products on which they may be dependent.

In these early stages of the pandemic, new work methods have been introduced that may prove valuable in the longer term, such as working from home and use of digital meeting platforms. There has also been a reassessment of the work tasks that actually require physical presence and those that fulfil a critical function for society.

In the long run, the fall in oil prices, the ongoing climate challenges, the stock market crash and declining revenues in the financial industries may have greater ramifications for other industries and types of companies than those initially most affected. It would be beneficial to be able to distinguish the impacts of measures to contain the spread of the pandemic from the impacts of other changes, such as the drop in oil prices, even though these changes may not be entirely unrelated to one another.

All in all, the early experiences point towards the emergence of significant and potentially permanent changes in the functioning and composition of the business sector, also as a result of widespread influences on the demand side, both as business-to-business and customer-to-business. This involves challenges and opportunities that are of interest to clarify and examine.

International business strategies tend to view countries with a stable social structure, good infrastructure, a secure political framework, a high level of expertise, and relatively predictable weather and climate conditions (without extreme weather events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.) as attractive for production of critical components for e.g. electronics and the pharmaceutical industry. Global pandemics accentuate this even more and may increase interest in countries such as Norway as a location for establishing industry in future. 

The coronavirus crisis could also lead to different impacts geographically due to differences in the business structure, demographics, competence of the workforce and other conditions in the various areas.

What types of projects are sought?
Funding is available for projects that focus on economics, and inter- or multidisciplinarity is encouraged. Projects are encouraged to analyse alternative political responses and measures and their effective mechanisms and consequences.

Potential focus areas include:

  • Collection and sharing of real-time data, e.g. between regions and in cooperation with other countries, for analysis and safeguarding of information for future efforts;
  • Descriptions and analysis of the situation and developments relating to:
    • industries and value chains;
    • regions and individual locations;
    • clusters/networks/ individual companies;
    • the labour market;
    • employees, furloughed employees and the unemployed;
    • climate change challenges;
    • patterns of demand and customer behaviour within industries.
  • Documentation and analysis of:
    • domino effects: impacts of insufficient supply on the next segment in the chain;
    • strategies for companies under pressure (restructuring, closure, temporary lay-offs, adaptations, etc.);
    • consequences of changes in compensation for loss of income for employees/the unemployed, distributional and efficiency effects, mobility in labour markets;
    • strategies for new business opportunities (both short- and long-term);
    • changes in how companies perceive and carry out their corporate social responsibility;
    • mechanisms for burden-sharing and effects of compensatory measures.

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

Contact persons

Who is eligible to apply?

The call is open to approved Norwegian research organisations in binding cooperation with relevant actors from Norwegian trade, professional or employee organisations, and public agencies or entities.

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the Project Owner
The organisation listed as the Project Owner in the grant application must have approved the submission of the grant application to the Research Council. The grant application must describe how the project incorporates the strategic objectives and priorities of the Project Owner.

Requirements relating to the project manager
To qualify as project manager, you must have an approved doctorate or equivalent qualifications before the date of the application submission deadline. If you do not have an approved doctorate but are qualified at associate professorship level or have current or previous employment in a position as forsker 1 (research professor), forsker 2 (senior researcher) or seniorforsker (senior researcher), you are also qualified.

Requirements relating to partners

  • Projects are to be carried out by one or more research organisations in binding cooperation with relevant actors from Norwegian trade, professional or employee organisations, and public agencies or entities. 
  • Projects must involve at least two partners that are not research organisations. At least one of these should be either a Norwegian trade or professional organisation or a Norwegian employee organisation.
  • Public agencies may be partners and receive funding to cover their project costs.
  • Companies and undertakings may be partners in the project but are not eligible to receive Research Council support.
  • The grant application must describe how the project incorporates the strategic objectives and priorities of all the partners. 
  • The project is to be implemented by means of effective collaboration as defined in the state aid rules, which means that all project partners are required to take active part in planning and following up the project as well as in disseminating project results and promoting the utilisation of new knowledge. Projects are to have a steering committee or reference group comprising representatives from the project partners.
  • Collaboration with research organisations outside Norway may also be included.
  • The project proposal must describe how the knowledge developed under the project will be of benefit to wider user groups.

A project participant may not be assigned two different roles in the project. This means that a sub-contractor for the project may not have the role of Project Owner or partner in the same project.

What can you seek funding for?

Scope of funding

  • The minimum amount of funding that may be sought is NOK 2 million.
  • Applicants may seek funding to cover actual costs that are necessary for the execution of the project. For more detailed information about what to enter in the project budget, please see the Research Council website.
  • Costs to be incurred by project partners are to be entered into the budget tables along the same lines as costs to the Project Owner.
  • Other organisations/ entities may contribute or supply services to the project, e.g. relating to data access. Costs for such services must be included under “Other operating expenses” for the Project Owner and/or partners.
  • The applicant research organisation and the partners that are not defined as an “undertaking” may apply for funding to cover up to 100 per cent of the budgeted project costs. Please note that Research Council funding for researcher time in the university and university college sector is limited to fixed rates.
  • Companies and undertakings that are partners in the project are to calculate costs in the budget, but are not eligible to apply for or receive financial support from the Research Council to cover these costs.
  • Use of a fair amount of time must be expected, since active involvement in the project is stipulated. The partners’ respective shares of the budget must be specified in the grant application, and the partners’ roles in and contributions to the project must be clearly stated in the project description.

Conditions for funding
When Research Council support is awarded to research organisations, the funding is only to go to the non-economic activity of the research organisations in the form of independent research. The Research Council requires a clear separation of accounts for the organisation’s economic and non-economic activities.

The project is to be implemented by means of effective collaboration as defined in the state aid rules. 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.”

If the project is awarded funding, the Project Owner is to draw up collaboration agreements with all of the Norwegian and international partners in the project. The collaboration agreements regulate the reciprocal rights and obligations of the partners and safeguard the integrity and autonomy of the research.

Publication
Research results are to be made accessible through sharing and publication in line with the Research Council’s Policy for Open Science.

Reporting and disbursement of funding
The Research Council’s requirements relating to allocation and disbursement of support for the first year and any pledges for subsequent years are set out in the General Terms and Conditions for R&D Projects.  

Projects awarded funding under this call are required to submit an annual project accounts report documenting incurred project costs and their financing.

Archiving of 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.

Relevant thematic areas for this call

Industry and services

Welfare, culture and society

Requirements for this application type

The grant application form must be created and submitted via “My RCN Web”. You may revise and resubmit your grant application form multiple times up to the application submission deadline. We recommend that you submit your application as soon as you have filled in the application form and included all mandatory attachments. After the deadline, it is the most recently submitted version of the grant application that will be processed.

  • The grant application, including all attachments, must be submitted in English.
  • All attachments must be submitted in pdf-format.
  • All mandatory attachments must be included.
  • The project description must be written using the designated template found at the end of this call. All items must be completed.
  • Requirements relating to the Project Owner (research organisation) must be satisfied.
  • Requirements relating to the partners must be satisfied.

Mandatory attachments

  • A project description of maximum 11 pages using the designated template found at the end of this call.
  • A CV for the project manager, using the designated template found at the end of this call.
  • CVs for the key researchers participating in the project, using the designated template found at the end of this call.
  • Letters of Intent from each partner listed. The letter must explain why the research project is important to the partner and describe the planned contributions to the project.

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

Optional attachments

  • Applicants are free to propose up to three referees who are presumed to be impartial and qualified to review the grant proposal. The Research Council is not under any obligation to use the proposed referees, but may use them as needed.

Links 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

Grant applications will be assessed in relation to the following criteria:

Excellence

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.
• The extent to which appropriate consideration has been given to societal responsibility, ethical issues and gender dimensions in research content.
• The extent to which appropriate consideration has been given to the use of stakeholder/user knowledge.

Impact

Potential impact of the proposed research
• The extent to which the planned outputs of the project address important present and/or future scientific challenges.
• The extent to which the planned outputs of the project address important present and/or future challenges for the sector(s).
• The extent to which the competence developed and planned outputs of the project will provide the basis for value creation in Norwegian business and/or development of the public sector.
• The extent to which the planned outputs of the project address UN Sustainable Development Goals or other important present and/or future societal challenges.
• The extent to which the potential impacts are clearly formulated and plausible.

Communication and exploitation
• Quality and scope of communication and engagement activities targeted towards relevant stakeholders/users.
• The extent to which the partners are involved in dissemination and utilisation of the project results.

Implementation

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 has the necessary expertise needed to undertake the research effectively.

The quality of the project organisation and management
• Effectiveness of the project organisation, 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 the partners' contribution to the governance and execution of the project.

Relevance to the call for proposals

The extent to which the grant application satisfies the thematic guidelines and priorities of the call. In addition, the extent to which the application meets the other guidelines and requirements set out in the call.

Assuming all other factors are essentially equal, priority will be given to achieving a broad thematic range in the project portfolio and to projects led by women project managers.

Administrative procedures

Once the grant applications have been received, the Research Council will conduct a preliminary administrative review to ensure that they satisfy all the stipulated formal requirements. Grant applications that do not comply with the requirements will be rejected.

Grant applications that satisfy the formal requirements will be distributed to referee panels comprised of impartial specialists with expertise in the relevant thematic areas and disciplines.

After the panel review, the Research Council will conduct an assessment of the relevance criterion. Applications that receive an average mark of 4 or lower from the panel will not be eligible for funding and will therefore not be assessed in relation to relevance.

The assessment of the relevance criterion and the panel’s review are used to calculate the grant application’s overall mark, which is the average of the marks for the four equally weighted criteria.

In addition, the funding decision taken by the portfolio board will be based on an overall assessment of the project portfolio. The portfolio board for Industry and services is the allocating body for funding.