Funding for Research Infrastructure of National Importance

Completed

The amount of funding available for the call was extended to NOK 1.4 billion after the Board's consideration of the budget on 29 October 2020.

The Research Council received 166 outlines for projects under the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure by the 27 May submission deadline. This call is open to projects within all disciplines and thematic areas, but only applicants who submitted a mandatory project outline by the 27 May deadline are eligible to submit a complete grant application. Complete grant applications must refer to the project number of at least one of the outlines on which the application is based.

Purpose

Funding is available under this call for projects that:

  • will give the Norwegian research community and business sector access to relevant and updated infrastructure which supports high-quality research and innovation and helps to provide the knowledge needed to address societal challenges;
  • will strengthen, coordinate and optimise the use and internationalisation of national research infrastructure in areas where Norwegian research groups have particular strengths;
  • involve new Norwegian participation in international infrastructures.

Important dates

22 Sep 2020

Webinar for applicants

07 Oct 2020

Date call is made active

18 Nov 2020

Application submission deadline

Important dates

About the call for proposals

This call for proposals encompasses funding for research infrastructure of national importance as defined in the strategy document Tools for Research – Part I: National Strategy for Research Infrastructure (2018–2025). The call also encompasses Norwegian participation in international research infrastructures, including infrastructures on the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructure (ESFRI) Roadmap.

To be eligible for funding, infrastructures must support the development of prioritised research areas of national importance and relevant industries. For a description of the strategic basis for the Research Council’s priority setting in relation to investments in research infrastructures for various areas, please refer to the following documents:

Funding is also available for other infrastructures of national importance and high relevance for basic research of high quality and/or applied research that is crucial to the development of the Norwegian business and public sectors.

All applicants must submit a complete grant application, including for projects highlighted on the Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure.

For large-scale, costly and complex research infrastructures, applicants are encouraged to draw up a phase-by-phase implementation plan and to apply for funding for one phase at a time.

After submission of a grant application but before the Research Council takes its decisions on funding awards, applicants may, at their own expense and risk, choose to begin investments in the research infrastructure for which funding is being sought under this call. A subsequent funding award from the Research Council may in this case be used to cover project expenses incurred after the application submission deadline of 18 November 2020.

The establishment or upgrade of research infrastructure for which funding is sought should be planned to accommodate start-up of these establishment or upgrade activities in the course of 2021, and the latest during the first half-year of 2022.

A minimum of NOK 70 million of the available budget under this call is earmarked for research infrastructure of relevance to renewable energy, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), provided that the grant applications received within this area are of sufficiently high quality.

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

Who is eligible to apply?

Only approved Norwegian research organisations and publicly funded managers of research infrastructure that cooperate closely with Norwegian research organisations are eligible to submit a complete grant application under this call.

See here for the list of approved Norwegian research organisations.

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the Project Owner and partners

The organisation listed as the Project Owner in the grant application form must have approved the submission of the application to the Research Council. The grant application must describe how the project incorporates the strategic objectives and priorities of the Project Owner and all partners. The Project Owner (formal applicant) must be an institution, and must supply the name of the designated project administrator.

Research organisations, publicly funded managers of research infrastructure that cooperate closely with Norwegian research organisations, and other organisations or companies may participate as partners in infrastructure projects.

What can you seek funding for?

Please refer to “What type of research infrastructure is eligible for funding?” for a detailed description of the costs that are eligible for funding.

In general, funding may be sought for the following:

The portion of the support for infrastructure awarded by the Research Council that constitutes state aid is granted under Article 26 of the General Block Exemption Regulation for state aid: Investment aid for research infrastructures. See below for more details.

Applicants are encouraged to make use of existing infrastructure when relevant and to seek funding for expansion and upgrades rather than establishment of new infrastructure. Grant applications relating to upgrades/further development of infrastructures previously awarded funding under the initiative may submit the designated special attachment.

In special cases, the Research Council may award funding to cover research infrastructure operating costs. To be eligible, applicants must either be seeking funding for the establishment/upgrade of the infrastructure in question under this call for proposals or must have previously received such funding under the initiative (see “What type of research infrastructure is eligible for funding?”). Support for operation cannot be awarded in cases where support for investment in infrastructure constitutes state aid. The need for long-term funding for operation (beyond the establishment phase) will be determined based on the information provided by the applicant in the designated special attachment.

Applicants seeking funding for Norwegian participation in collaboration on establishment or upgrades of international research infrastructures, including projects on the ESFRI Roadmap, must submit the designated special attachment describing the Norwegian participation and its intrinsic value.

Scope of funding
Projects may be awarded funding for up to five years. The minimum amount of funding from the Research Council is NOK 2 million, and the maximum is NOK 200 million. When the allocation constitutes state aid, the amount may not exceed EUR 20 million per infrastructure.

Conditions for funding
For the part of the allocated funding that goes to an “undertaking” (defined in the state aid rules as any actor that carries out an economic activity consisting of offering products or services on a given market), 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 26 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 be applied. For more information about the regulations, see here (in Norwegian).

This funding scheme is practised in compliance with the EEA state aid rules. This means that conditions and concepts set forth in this call 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 shall take 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.

This call for proposals constitutes a funding scheme that is notified to the EFTA Surveillance Authority with reference to GBERxx/2020/R&D&I (reference coming soon).

For more information about Article 26 of the Block Exemption and about the economic and non-economic activity of research organisations and research infrastructures, please see the Research Council webpage Conditions for awarding state aid.

Prior to entering into a contract with the Research Council, a plan must be in place for future financing of operating the infrastructure to be established/upgraded/renewed. This plan must present future operating costs of the infrastructure and describe plans for covering these. If the plan includes contribution of own resources towards financing for the infrastructure’s operation, the Research Council will consider this to be binding.

Archiving of research data

In general, the projects that are using the infrastructure are responsible for selecting the archiving solution(s) to use for storing research data generated during the project. However, the Project Owner (research organisation) for the infrastructure is to provide guidance to the projects regarding the choice of archiving solution(s). The means by which the infrastructure will provide such expertise must be specified in connection with the revised grant proposal.

In cases where the infrastructure generates data that are independent of projects, and where these data should be archived for future use, the infrastructure is to specify the archiving solution(s) for these data in a data management plan.

The international FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship must be followed.

Special requirements

Requirements relating to the institutions

  • It is the institution's management that will promote the applications. Applications are encouraged to be viewed in the context of the institution's strategy.
  • If the institution is submitting or is a partner in multiple applications, the institution’s management must send a letter to the Research Council listing and ranking all the infrastructures prioritised by the organisation.
    Send this to post@forskningsradet.no with a copy to Kirsti S. Landsverk, ksl@forskningsradet.no and marked "The institution's prioritisation of research infrastructure".
  • The research institution must allocate qualified personnel for the management and operation of the infrastructure.

Requirements relating to the application

  • The Project Owner (formal applicant) must be an institution and must supply the name of the designated project administrator.
  • Grant applications that include use of existing national infrastructure for storage and accessibility of data must attach a letter from those responsible for the existing national e-infrastructure(s) confirming their approval of the project’s plan. A description must be provided of how costs relating to data management, storage and accessibility will be financed.
  • In addition to the cost and funding plans for the project submitted as part of the application form, a separate spreadsheet must be attached to the grant application; see the Spreadsheet for Costs and Funding on the bottom of this page. Here, costs related to investment in and operation of the infrastructure are to be specified separately. Costs and funding for the operation of the infrastructure must be entered for a period of 10 years.

Requirements relating to the project description

  • The project description must follow the designated template.
  • Applicants seeking funding in excess of NOK 30 million are asked to specify in the project description what can be achieved within an alternative, minimum budget framework, potentially combined with a plan for increases in funding, provided that this is meaningful.
  • The project description must clearly describe how the infrastructure will be made available to research communities and relevant business sectors with people other than project managers and partners. In order to safeguard the interests of the user environments, it is recommended to establish a steering group or advisory board with representatives from several institutions. This also applies to infrastructures that are established, owned and operated by only one institution, but have a larger user group.
  • For proposals that include the development of new storage solutions and/or services for making data accessible, the plan for financial operation of the infrastructure must take into account that a portion of operating revenues must be able to cover a minimum of costs associated with upgrading. It must also be described how these solutions should be integrated with relevant existing national/international data infrastructures.

     

Relevant thematic areas for this call

Grant proposals will be accepted for projects within all disciplines and thematic areas.

Research infrastructure

Requirements for this application type

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 mandatory attachments must be included.
  • All attachments must be submitted in PDF format. Please note that each worksheet in the Excel spreadsheet must be converted to PDF format.
  • The grant application must be based on one or more outlines submitted by the 27 May 2020 deadline and must clearly indicate the outline(s) on which the application is based.

Attachments
The designated templates must be used. They are found at the end of this call for proposals.

Mandatory attachments

  • Project description of maximum 15 pages, using the designated template;
  • Description of work packages, using the designated template;
  • Spreadsheet for Costs and Funding 2020 using the designated template, to be uploaded under Attachments/Other items.
  • CVs (maximum four pages per person, using the designated template) for the project manager at the Project Owner and for sub-project (work package) managers at each partner institution.
  • Declaration from the Project Owner detailing how the infrastructure is aligned with the institution’s research strategy;
  • Confirmation at institution level from each partner regarding its obligations under the project, and a declaration that the infrastructure is aligned with the institution’s research strategy, including a brief account of how the infrastructure forms part of the strategy.
  • Additional attachments if the grant application applies to:
    • Norwegian participation in international infrastructures: special attachment using the designated template, maximum three pages. NOTE: For new nodes in ESFRI infrastructures, a declaration of support from the international coordinator must be attached.
    • Long-term funding for operation: special attachment using the designated template, maximum five pages.
    • Grant applications that include use of existing national infrastructure for storage and accessibility of data must attach a letter from those responsible for the existing national e-infrastructure(s) confirming their approval of the project’s plan.

Optional attachments

  • Projects that have previously received funding under the INFRASTRUKTUR initiative and that seek further investments (in phase 2/3/4) may include a special attachment using the designated template, maximum two pages.
  • Letter of Intent or declaration of support from external user groups (drawn up by the groups themselves and not the applicant consortium) confirming the need and potential for utilisation of the infrastructure for which funding is sought.

Links to websites and documents, as well as other attachments other 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 on the basis of the following criteria:

Assessment criteria for the referee panels

  • Excellence
  • Impact
  • Implementation
  • Overall assessment by the referee/panel

Criteria for the strategic administrative panels

  • Special requirements stipulated in the call
  • National importance
  • Cooperation and distribution of tasks and responsibility
  • Institutional strategy clarification
  • Benefit to society
  • Implementation and organisation
  • Overall assessment by the administrative panel

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

Excellence

The extent to which the infrastructure will contribute to scientific renewal and/or scope
• The extent to which the infrastructure will help to elevate Norwegian research to a top international level;
• The extent to which the infrastructure provides services that meet the needs of relevant research communities or research areas.

The quality and uniqueness of the infrastructure
• The extent to which the infrastructure is "state-of-the-art" – the best technological solutions are being chosen;
• How the infrastructure is aligned with the landscape of existing, relevant infrastructures, and the extent to which the proposal has been coordinated with these.

Impact

Potential impacts
•The extent to which the infrastructure will have a potential impact on:
- the research system;
- innovation;
- society.

Accessibility and utilisation
• The extent to which:
- the infrastructure will be made accessible to all relevant users;
- there will be dissemination and communication activities targeted towards all relevant stakeholders/users;
- the infrastructure facilitates user participation from research communities, the business sector, public administration and other relevant contributors.

Implementation

Quality of project management and organisation
• The extent to which:
- the project manager has the necessary qualifications to lead the project;
- the project group has the relevant expertise and resources needed to establish, operate and offer services to relevant user groups;
- the project organisation is suitable for the infrastructure.

Plans for establishment/upgrade and operation of the infrastructure
• The extent to which:
- there is a carefully weighed, realistic plan for establishing/upgrading the infrastructure, including breakdown into work packages/sub-projects, milestones, deliverables, costs and resource needs;
- there are plans for how to make optimal use of the infrastructure;
- there are well thought out plans for how the data that the infrastructure generates/manages are to be structured, stored and published or otherwise made accessible;
- there is a risk assessment and proposed measures for dealing with any high-risk incidents.

• Applications proposing the establishment/upgrade of a Norwegian node of an international research infrastructure collaboration will be assessed on the extent to which the role distribution between the Norwegian partner (node) and the international partners is clearly defined and suitable (based on the information provided by the applicant in a special attachment).

Assessment of technical solutions
• The extent to which the proposed technical solutions are sufficiently mature to warrant establishment of the infrastructure;
• Projects involving independent development of equipment and technical solutions will also be assessed as to:
- whether it is documented that no available solutions exist in the market, which justify the independent development;
- whether the underlying methodology/technology has been demonstrated as functional in a relevant environment (Technology Readiness Level 6 as defined in the European Commission).

Overall assessment of the referee/panel

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

Special priorities of the call

The extent to which the project satisfies the special priorities set out in the call for proposals in addition to those mentioned below. These priorities will be specified in the calls for proposals.

National importance

• Assessment of the extent to which the infrastructure:
- is of widespread national interest;
- will be available in only one or a few locations in Norway;
- supports national priority research areas and strategies.

Cooperation and task-sharing

• Assessment of the extent to which the project:
- contributes to the constructive distribution of tasks and responsibilities at the national level;
- will make use of national research expertise;
- promotes national cooperation on investments in and operation of research infrastructures.

• When relevant, assessment of the extent to which the project:
- cooperates with other relevant national and/or international infrastructures.

Strategic basis within the institution

• Assessment of the extent to which the project reflects the strategic basis of the institution, and its role in relation to the Project Owner’s and partners’ strategic objectives and plans.

Benefits to society

• The extent to which the infrastructure will promote:
- innovation and/or value creation in the business and/or the public sector, when this is relevant;
- increased knowledge/expertise of importance to society.

Implementation and organisation

• The extent to which:
- the project has a financially robust operational model for the infrastructure;
- the funding plan for establishing/upgrading the infrastructure is well thought out and realistic;
- good plans are in place to make the infrastructure accessible to users outside the host institutions;
- the project incorporates adequate coordination and an appropriate distribution of tasks and obligations regarding the establishment/upgrade and operation of the infrastructure;
o For applications for upgrades/further development of an existing infrastructure, the achievement of targets in previous phases funded by the Research Council will be assessed.
o For applications for long-term basic funding for operation, the need for support will be based on the information provided by the applicant in a special attachment.
- the project is sufficiently mature for implementation;
- it is possible to plan for phase-by-phase implementation and whether the budgetary framework can be reduced while maintaining the project’s objectives.

Overall assessment of administrative review panels

An overall assessment of the application will be carried out based on the referee assessments and the assessment criteria. The administrative review panel will assess proposals based on the strengths and weaknesses identified in the referee assessments and assessment criteria it has reviewed itself.

The application review process includes a scientific review carried out by international referees and an assessment of strategic importance by the Research Council administration.

All grant applications are initially assessed by external experts in a referee panel that assesses the extent to which the proposed research infrastructure will facilitate research activities of high scientific quality. This assessment serves as important advisory input for the Research Council in the further processing of the applications by the Research Council administration.

The Research Council administration first assesses the grant applications with regard to the national importance of the proposed infrastructure as this is defined in Tools for Research – National strategy for research infrastructure (2018–2025), the strategic relevance of the infrastructure in terms of Norwegian research priorities, and implementation of the project. The Research Council does not carry out the scientific assessment of the grant applications. Next, the Research Council administration carries out an overall assessment of the strategic importance of the highest ranked applications across subject areas and portfolios. Finally, the administration draws up a recommendation for the decision-making body, which is the Research Council Executive Board.

Stage 1: Scientific review

The composition of the referee panels will reflect the scientific profile of the grant applications received. In order to ensure impartiality in the proceedings, virtually all panel referees will come from the international community.

Grant applications deemed to be of relevance to multiple strategic priority areas will be reviewed by more than one referee panel.

Stage 2: Strategic-administrative review

The first stage in the administrative review is conducted by administrative review panels comprised of Research Council staff members who have thorough knowledge of a scientific, thematic and/or technology area as well as of the Norwegian research stakeholders in this area. These panels are divided into roughly the same subject fields and thematic areas as those on the 2020 Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure. All grant applications that have received a high mark (5, 6 or 7) from the referee panels will be submitted to the administrative review panels for assessment. Grant applications deemed to be of great relevance to multiple strategic priority areas will be reviewed by more than one administrative panel.

Stage 3: Final selection by strategic- administrative overall assessment

Based on the combined assessment by the administrative panels, the Research Council administration carries out an overall assessment across subject areas and portfolios, giving weight to the following factors:

  • rankings and assessment from the administrative panels;
  • requirements and guidelines set out in the call for proposals;
  • the national importance of the research infrastructure within strategic priority areas;
  • the link between investments in research infrastructures and research activities funded via other Research Council instruments. Investments must be proportionate to the scope of research and the need for infrastructure in the research area in question.
  • the degree of urgency for establishing/further developing the research infrastructures;
  • achieving a broad, balanced project portfolio: all the national priority areas should be supported with research infrastructures over time, provided there are high-quality grant applications submitted;
  • international contractual obligations, including management of hosting roles where Norwegian institutions play a key role in international infrastructures;
  • whether there is an adequate budget framework available for funding the project;
  • how well prepared the proposed establishment or upgrade activities are to achieve rapid project implementation.