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Innovation Project for the Public Sector

Important dates

04 Aug 2021

Date call is made active

15 Sep 2021

Application submission deadline

01 Mar 2022

Earliest permitted project start

01 Oct 2022

Latest permitted project start

Important dates


An Innovation Project for the Public Sector is intended to promote sustainable, systematic and effective innovation in public-sector services, infrastructure and administration. Innovation projects must be based on needs and challenges and be part of the public entity’s plans for development. The project is to be executed through effective collaboration between the Project Owner (public sector body), R&D groups and other relevant stakeholders.

Also see the information page From idea to research project in the public sector where, among other things, you will find project development tools.

Innovations in this context means new or significantly improved goods, services, processes, organisation and management forms or concepts that are utilised to achieve value creation and benefits to society.

About the call for proposals

The Research Council of Norway is announcing up to NOK 160 million in R&D support for Innovation Projects for the Public Sector. This funding is for projects in which public sector bodies are in need of research in connection with innovation activities. The projects should generate value creation. It will be possible to apply for support for projects in a range of different thematic areas, and many sectors and service areas will find this an appropriate funding instrument for their needs. Funding will also be available for projects that extend across sectors and service areas. More information about each thematic area is provided below.

We announce funding for innovation in the public sector through two different calls for proposal: The call you are currently reading and the call for proposals for Pre-commercial ProcurementApplications submitted in response to these two calls will compete for the same funding.

The call for proposals is available in both Norwegian and English. The Norwegian-language call for proposals is the legally binding version.

Who is eligible to apply?

Public sector bodies, as defined in the link, are eligible to apply. Applicants under some of the thematic areas must also satisfy additional special requirements. Such requirements will be stipulated in the description of the relevant thematic areas.

Companies and research organisations may not apply.

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the Project Owner

The Project Owner must be a Norwegian public sector body as defined in the link above.

Requirements relating to partners

One or more approved research organisations must participate as a partner in the project. A list of approved research organisations is available here. Any additional requirements related to collaboration will be stipulated in the information relating to the individual thematic areas.

Expectations concerning other forms of collaboration

The Research Council recommends projects to have several actors as partners. This can be other public entities, business and industry, special interest organisations and other actors that are relevant to the project.

User participation is encouraged

In many contexts, user participation and knowledge about users will be essential if innovation efforts are to succeed. The term “user” in this context refers to those who are to be the recipients of the service, professional users/user organisations and/or the service providers (employees). Projects where this is relevant should incorporate user participation and have a clear user-oriented perspective.

Requirements relating to project managers

The project manager’s scientific expertise and suitability to manage the project will be assessed by peer reviewers. The project manager’s CV is assessed against the project description. The requirements for expertise and suitability will apply throughout the project period.

An application must be submitted if the project manager needs to be replaced during the project period. Approval of such applications is contingent on the outcome of the assessment of the new project manager’s expertise and suitability.

What can you seek funding for?

You will find detailed and important information about what to enter in the project budget on our website.

The Research Council’s support for innovation in the public sector applies to R&D activities. Other activities and measures that are necessary to realising the innovation must be presented in the project description as well, although these costs will not be funded by the Research Council. Relevant project expenses include payroll expenses, any research fellowships and direct project expenses.

See What to enter in the project budget for the Research Council’s guidelines on budgeting of project costs.

In the grant application form, the Research Council requires you to break down the project budget into the following cost categories:

  • Payroll and indirect expenses: costs incurred by the Project Owner's institution and other task-performing partners in the public sector, trade and industry and research organisations in Norway
  • Other project costs, which comprise costs for other activities that are necessary to carry out R&D activities under the project. All costs entered as ‘other operating expenses’ must be specified in the grant application and such costs will be revised if the project is granted funding.
  • Procurement of R&D services: costs of contracting R&D suppliers to perform R&D activities for the project
  • Equipment: costs related to the operation and depreciation of scientific equipment necessary for the execution of the project.

For projects with a Project Owner from the municipal sector, the maximum amount of project support from the Research Council is 75 per cent of the total approved project costs. For projects where the Project Owner is from state institutions, the maximum amount of project support is 50 per cent of the overall approved project costs.

Conditions for funding

The Research Council’s requirements relating to allocation are set out in the General Terms and Conditions for R&D Projects. Projects awarded funding under this call are among other things required to submit accounting reports annually documenting incurred project costs and their financing.

If the project application is awarded funding, the Project Owner must revise the project and grant application in accordance with the conditions set out by the ruling body in the Research Council. The Project Owner must sign an agreement with all the partners.

Support to research organisations participating as partners in the project must go to the organisation’s non-economic activity, as R&D activity carried out in effective collaboration with others is defined as part of the research organisation’s non-economic activity under the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation. The Research Council requires a clear separation of accounts for the research 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.

Funding awarded to an undertaking constitutes state aid. In this context, an ‘undertaking’ is defined as any actor that carries out an economic activity consisting of offering products and/or services on a given market. When an undertaking receives support to cover a portion of its project costs 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 call for proposals has been approved as an aid scheme by The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) with the reference: GBER 72/2021/R&D&I. 

Sole proprietorships are eligible as partners. However, payroll and indirect expenses will not be covered for the owner. The payroll and indirect expenses for any other employees of sole proprietorships can be covered, as well as expenses relating to participation in a project, provided that they are described in the sole proprietorship’s accounts.

Foreign undertakings

The Research Council cannot award funding to foreign undertakings under this call. Foreign undertakings participating in a project must therefore either have their expenses covered without funding from the Research Council or be connected to the project as an R&D supplier.

The project is to be implemented by means of effective collaboration between all partners as defined in the state aid rules:

‘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.’

Scope of funding

The scope of funding for the enterprise’s project costs depend on the size of the undertaking and the type of R&D activities to be carried out. The aid intensity may therefore vary from 25 per cent to 70 per cent, cf. the state aid rules (see ‘Article 25: Aid for research and development projects’ in the link, and the table below).

Scientific articles and research data

The Research Council requires full and immediate open access to scientific articles; see Plan S – open access to publications.

Research data must be made available in accordance with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). The Project Owner organisation of projects that process data must prepare a data management plan in connection with the revised application.

Requirements relating to medical and health-related studies involving human participants

The Research Council stipulates special Requirements and guidelines for registration and disclosure of medical and health-related studies involving human participants.



Relevant thematic areas for this call

This call covers a wide range of different thematic areas, and many sectors and service areas will find this an appropriate funding instrument for their needs.

The objectives and priorities for the allocation of funds are described under the individual thematic areas. There are specific requirements and guidelines under some of the thematic areas that will be given special weight. Applicants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the description of the topic(s) that is/are relevant to their application.

Select the topics most relevant to your project proposal in the grant application form. The chosen topics are merely for guidance to assist the Research Council in the application review process, and the application will be reviewed in relation to the topic we believe it is most relevant to.

For more information about priorities under the individual thematic areas, read the documents referred to under ‘Relevant plans’.

The Research Council strives to achieve a balanced project portfolio of projects within the specified topics.

The amount earmarked for the individual topic is stated under each topic. The amounts are subject to change during the course of the call period.

For more information about the topics, contact the contact persons for the various topics.

Cross-cutting topics

BioeconomyYouth exclusion


Health, care and welfare services

Enabling technologies

Digitalisation and use of ICT

Education and competence

Practical information

Requirements for this application type

Applications must be created and submitted via My RCN Web. The application and all attachments must be written in Norwegian or English. CVs must be written in Norwegian or English. 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.

  • All attachments to the online grant application form must be uploaded in PDF format. The templates for attachments can be found at the end of the call for proposals.
  • If the applicant has submitted the same or similar grant proposals to other Research Council calls for proposals, this must be stated in the grant application.
  • The earliest start-up date for the project is 1 March 2022.
  • The latest possible start-up date is 1 October 2022. Projects approved for funding that have not started within this date may lose their allocation.

Mandatory attachments

  • Project description of up to 10 pages in length using the designated template at the end of the call. All items in the template must be completed.
  • CVs for the project manager and other key project participants (e.g. individuals responsible for the project’s work packages) using the designated template at the end of the call. CVs must be uploaded as the attachment type CV.
  • Information about all partners, including the Project Owner, must be provided in accordance with the partner information template which is available at the end of the call. This must be uploaded as the attachment type ‘Partner information’.

All requirements set out in the call must be met. Applications that do not meet the formal requirements, or requirements relating to the Project Owner, collaboration and roles in the project, will not be considered.

We will not assess documents and websites linked to in the application, or other attachments than those specified above. There is no technical validation of the content of uploaded attachments, so please ensure that you upload the correct file for the selected type of attachment.

Optional attachment

  • Proposals for up to three referees who are considered qualified to assess the application.

Assessment criteria

Grant applications will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria:


To what extent does the project represent an ambitious innovation that is supported by relevant R&D activities of high quality?

• To what extent does the innovation represent something new?
• To what extent will the innovation help to resolve a challenge and/or meet a recognised need?
• To what extent does the project have the potential to generate new knowledge that can lead to innovation?
• To what extent are the R&D activities essential for the success of the innovation?
• To what extent does the project build on relevant and updated knowledge?
• To what extent does the project employ relevant and recognised R&D methods?


To what extent does the project pave the way for value creation in the public sector entities as well as lay a foundation for benefits to other segments of the public sector?

Value creation and realisation of benefits
• To what extent are the potential impacts of the project clearly formulated and credible?
• To what extent will the project form the basis for value creation for the applicant and public sector partners?
• To what extent is the plan for realisation of benefits relevant and adequate, including risk assessments, plans, methods, resource needs, partners, support and roles?
• To what extent can the project lead to other positive societal outcomes, such as:
– facilitating utilisation of results by other segments of the public sector, the business sector or other stakeholders;
– leading to an innovation that can address UN Sustainable Development Goals or solve other important societal challenges?

Dissemination, sharing and exploitation
• To what extent are dissemination and communication activities clearly formulated and directed towards relevant target groups?
• To what extent is the potential for sharing and exploitation clearly formulated and plausible?
• To what extent does the project have plans for exploitation in other parts of the public sector?


To what extent does the work plan provide a good basis for implementing the R&D activities and realising the potential for value creation?

Quality of the project’s organisation and management
• To what extent is the project work plan satisfactory, including whether the resources for the various work packages are adequate and reflect the individual work package’s objectives, timetable and deliverables?
• To what extent are the partners well suited for carrying out the R&D activities, and is the distribution of the budget, roles and responsibilities clearly-defined and relevant?
• To what extent have management, leadership and support been adequately addressed?

Quality of the project manager and project group
• To what extent does the project manager have the appropriate expertise and experience to lead an R&D project targeted towards innovation and value creation in the public sector?
• To what extent does the project group have the competence and expertise necessary to ensure efficient implementation of the project?

Relevance to the call for proposals

To what extent does the project meet the requirements and guidelines set out in the call for proposals?

• To what extent does the application meet the topic’s guidelines and priorities?
• To what extent does the application meet other requirements and characteristics set out in the call?

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. Applications that do not meet the formal requirements will be rejected.

After the preliminary administrative review, the applications that meet the formal requirements will be divided between panels comprising referees with relevant expertise from the research sector and public sector.

For each individual application, the Research Council will check that the referee panel is impartial and has sufficient expertise to assess the research topic in question. The referees will assess the applications in relation to the criteria ‘Excellence’ ‘Impact’ and ‘Implementation’ An overall mark is awarded for each of these criteria.

The referees’ assessment will be decisive to whether the project is eligible for funding.

If the mark awarded by the referee panel for all of the criteria is 4 or higher on a scale where 7 is the highest mark, the application will be assessed by the Research Council’s case officers also on the basis of the criterion ‘Relevance to the call for proposals’. The assessment and marks for all four criteria will be consolidated into a single, overall mark that indicates the merit of the application.

The Research Council administration will then present the project proposals and their respective marks to the Research Council’s portfolio boards for the final funding decision. The Portfolio board will emphasise achieving a balanced portfolio of projects within their area of responsibility, including in relation to ongoing projects and applications from other calls. These assessments will be based on the budgetary framework, the text of the call for proposals and documents referred to in the description of the respective thematic areas.

Each portfolio board will also act in accordance with the Research Council’s general policy for allocation of funding, which means that we assess applications on the basis of:

  • research ethics perspectives
  • prioritisation of projects led by women project managers, assuming all other quality-related factors are essentially equal
  • prioritisation of projects based on the impact on sustainability and the environment, assuming all other quality-related factors are essentially equal

We expect to publish which applications have been awarded funding in week 51. For updated dates and a list of the applications granted funding, see application results here.

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