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Proof-of-Concept – Research Commercialisation from Publicly Funded Research 2023

11 October 2023: We have added a template for suggestions for experts that we would like you to fill out and attach to your grant application.

If you have already submitted an application and you have not included the attachment, this will not impact how we evaluate your application.

Important dates

01 Jan 2024

Earliest permitted project start

01 Jun 2024

Latest permitted project start

30 May 2027

Latest permitted project completion date

Important dates

Purpose

The purpose of Commercialisation Projects is to contribute to increase commercial exploitation of publicly funded research.

The purpose of a Proof-of-Concept Project is to reduce the project’s uncertainty relating to technology and the market. The goal of a Proof-of-Concept Project is to address the most critical questions, so that the next stage of the commercialisation process can begin. 

You can find practical information, frequently asked questions, examples of projects etc. on our Commercialisation Project information page.

About the call for proposals

Organisations that allocate funding to the commercialisation of research in Norway target different funding gaps relating to the commercialisation of research results.

We cover the first phase, from technology to the pre-commercial phase. In this phase, there is still much interaction with professional and research communities. At the same time, close dialogue with market players (investors, clients, partners etc.) is important in order to ensure that the project is on the right track.

The goal is to reduce technology and market risk in order to ensure a trigger effect going into the next phase once the project is completed.

We can only provide grants for the commercialisation of publicly funded research results originating from approved research organisations.

The Proof-of-Concept call therefore targets a limited group of applicants, primarily new projects that have not previously been awarded commercialisation funding by the Research Council, with the following exceptions:

  • Projects that have previously received funding to carry out qualification work or optimisation (former call under BIOTEK2021)
  • Projects that have received Proof-of-Concept funding and can demonstrate successful progress, but where further clarification is needed, and no other funding possibilities are available due to the project’s risk profile and time-to-market.

The new application will be assessed against any previously funded project and whether further funding is justified.

Typical characteristics of a Proof-of-Concept project:

  • The project is based on promising research results from approved research organisations (not open source or published results that prevent copyright) that are sufficiently robust to contribute to developing new products, processes and services that represent significant improvements relative to existing solutions (state-of-the-art).
  • The project is in a pre-commercial phase.
  • In the project, you carry out technological and market clarifications with the purpose of reducing risk and increase the likelihood of successful commercialisation of research results.
  • You are clear about what goals you aim to achieve with the project and what you expect to have clarified and/or triggered at the end of the project.

The call is open to all thematic areas and the project can be at levels 2–7 on the Technology readiness level (TRL) scale used in the EU.

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

Who is eligible to apply?

The following actors are eligible to apply for funding:

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the Project Owner

The organisation listed as the Project Owner in the application form must have authorised the project manager to submit the grant application. The Project Owner must be one of the following: Research organisation

See the list of approved Norwegian research organisations.

Technology transfer office

The research organisation that owns the intellectual property rights must be a partner in the project.

Start-up company

  • Start-up companies must stem from an approved research organisation from which the research results originate, and the company must fulfil the criteria set out in Article 22 of the EU Commission’s General Block Exemption Regulation. 
  • Start-ups must include a rights statement from the management of the research organisation or its affiliated Technology transfer office (TTO) confirming that the research originated in the said research organisation, and that the company has the necessary rights to develop its research results for commercial use.
  • Start-ups must enclose a self-declaration confirming the size of the company and that it does not have outstanding repayment claims.
  • Sole proprietorships may not apply.

For more information, see the section ‘Conditions for funding’ below.

Requirements relating to partners 

  • There is no requirement to include partner(s) in the project unless the Project Owner shares the rights to the results that the verification project is based on with others, or if there are others who own these rights. These other parties must in such case meet the criteria under “Who is eligible to apply?” and must be partners in the project. An example of this is when a technology transfer office (TTO) is listed as the Project Owner and the research organisation that owns the rights to the results is a partner.
  • If you nonetheless have partners, they must be registered in the application form with the role “Both research activity and financing”, and the Project Owner must enter into an agreement with them about the potential allocation and contract.

Requirements relating to sub-contractors

  • Any actors that supply consultancy, development or other services to the project are to be considered a sub-contractor.
  • The Project Owner and/or partner(s) may give assignments to the project’s sub-contractors.
  • A sub-contractor helps to carry out specific and delimited tasks in the project, and you cannot give a sub-contractor any rights to the project results.
  • You must not register the sub-contractors in the application form, but you must mention any large-scale assignments in the application (budget specification, project description).

Please note that the role of R&D provider must not be used in Proof-of-Concept applications. You can find more information about the use of R&D suppliers and sub-contractors on the Research Council’s website.

What can you seek funding for?

You may apply for up to 100 per cent of the budgeted project costs, and there is no own contribution requirement.

Project costs are the actual costs that are necessary to carry out the project.

Typical activities include

  • optimising, clarifying and demonstrating technology concepts and results
  • clarifying areas of application, market potential, willingness to pay, and developing business models and strategies
  • establishing contact with potential investors, industry partners, customers and users
  • preparing the basis for Freedom to Operate, and preparing and submitting patent applications

The following are examples of costs that cannot be included in the project costs:

  • licences or purchase of the rights to research results
  • operating costs related to e.g. maintenance of patents or other operational activities
  • costs related to funding fellowship-holders (PhD and post-doctoral fellows). However, fellowship-holders can be included in the project group and carry out tasks for the project. The allocation can be used to cover paid release of fellowship-holders.

You will find detailed and important information about what to enter in the project budget on our website and in the Guidelines on how to complete the application form (attachment opens in a new window), which has been specifically prepared for Commercialisation Project applications. 

Conditions for funding

The awarding of grants is conditional on the Research Council being allocated funding for commercialisation under the national budget.

Research organisations and technology transfer offices

Approved research organisations, the TTO representing them and any partners that are to receive funding must satisfy the definition of a research and knowledge dissemination organisation set out in the state aid rules. Any other partners will not be eligible to receive funding from the Research Council under these projects.

Definition of research and knowledge dissemination organisation in the state aid rules:

“an entity (such as universities or research institutes, technology transfer agencies, innovation intermediaries, research-oriented physical or virtual collaborative entities), irrespective of its legal status (organised under public or private law) or way of financing, whose primary goal is to independently conduct fundamental research, industrial research or experimental development or to widely disseminate the results of such activities by way of teaching, publication or knowledge transfer. Where such entity also pursues economic activities, the financing, the costs and the revenues of those economic activities must be accounted for separately. Undertakings that can exert a decisive influence upon such an entity, for example in the quality of shareholders or members, may not enjoy a preferential access to the results generated by it.”

Funding awarded to research organisations or their affiliated TTOs may only be used to cover project costs related to activities of a non-economic character in the form of knowledge-transfer activities, as described in Item 20(b) of the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation (the page opens in a new window).

You must ensure that no indirect state aid is provided to partner companies through, for example, beneficially priced rights to research results. The collaboration agreement must ensure that the rights to the results are distributed in accordance with Item 29 of the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation.

What are non-economic knowledge-transfer activities?

To be considered part of the research organisation’s non-economic activity, the knowledge-transfer activity must, according to the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines, be conducted either by the research organisation itself or jointly with, or on behalf of, other such entities.

Definition of “knowledge transfer” in the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation:

“knowledge transfer” means any process which has the aim of acquiring, collecting and sharing explicit and tacit knowledge, including skills and competence in both economic and non-economic activities such as research collaborations, consultancy, licensing, spin-off creation, publication and mobility of researchers and other personnel involved in those activities. Besides scientific and technological knowledge, it includes other kinds of knowledge such as knowledge on the use of standards and regulations embedding them and on conditions of real life operating environments and methods for organisational innovation, as well as management of knowledge related to identifying, acquiring, protecting, defending and exploiting intangible assets.”

Additionally, all profits from these activities are to be reinvested in the primary activities of the research organisation. In this case, funding for knowledge-transfer activities is not considered state aid. It is important to note that the non-economic nature of these activities is not compromised by contracting the provision of such services by third parties by way of open tenders.

We require a clear separation of accounts for the research organisation/TTO’s economic and non-economic activities.

Read more about this on our information page Conditions for awarding state aid.

Start-up companies

Start-ups must be aware that funding will be awarded as state aid in accordance with Article 22 of the General Block Exemption Regulation for state aid (Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014).

The allocation of funding must be in accordance with the state aid rules. 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 the same reason.

State aid may not be given to an undertaking that is subject to an outstanding recovery order following a formal decision by the EFTA Surveillance Authority or the European Commission stating that state aid received is illegal and incompatible with the internal market.

Article 22 of the General Block Exemption Regulation states that funding can only be awarded to enterprises that

  • are not listed on the stock exchange
  • have been registered in the Register of Business Enterprises for less than five years
  • have not taken over the activity of another enterprise
  • have not distributed profits
  • have not been formed through a merger.

In addition to the requirements listed above, the Research Council sets the following requirements:

  • the enterprise is not to have more than ten employees
  • the enterprise’s annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet is not to exceed NOK 2 million.

When assessing an enterprise’s size, you must also give consideration to the number of employees and the turnover/balance sheet for companies with a holding of 25 per cent or more of the capital or voting rights, or in which the enterprise itself has a holding of 25 per cent or more of the capital or voting rights. See the definition of the concept ‘small and medium-sized enterprises’ or 
‘SMEs’ in the General Block Exemption Regulation: Aid for start-ups, Annex I, and the EU Commission’s User guide to the SME definition.

The call for proposals will be reported as an aid scheme by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) with the reference: 71/2023/SME.

Other requirements for the project

Establish a steering committee

Projects awarded funding must establish a steering committee. The committee members’ combined expertise must cover all of the important risk elements associated with the project. The Research Council’s case officer is entitled to attend steering committee meetings.

Termination of the project contract

It is important that the approved milestones are met by the stipulated deadlines. This will be given particular weight when assessing whether to continue providing project funding or to terminate the contract.

Other examples of key issues that can lead to amendment or termination of a contract include the following:

  • the conditions set out in the call and the approved prerequisites for funding are not met
  • the project is not progressing according to plan
  • key partners are no longer involved in the project
  • the project no longer has access to critical and necessary resources or equipment
  • new results or new information has become available that substantially diminish the commercial potential of the project.

Requirement for Gender Equality Plan

From 2022, all grant recipients that are research organisations or public sector bodies (Project Owners and partners) must have a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) available on their website. This must be in place when they sign the grant agreement for the project awarded funding. The requirement does not apply to the business sector, special interest organisations or the non-governmental sector.

A link to the Gender Equality Plan must be included in the project description.

Relevant thematic areas for this call

Trade and industry

Trade and industry throughout the countryFisheries and aquacultureForests and woodAgricultureThe environmentFood industryOil, gasEnergyProcessing industryManufacturing industryICT industryBuilding, construction and miningTransport and communicationsFinance and bankingHealth industryTravel and tourismRetail/wholesaleMedia and cultureMaritime industryOther servicesAnimal healthAviationFoodMedia and communicationPolice, fire and rescue, defenceSpace explorationShippingSmart cityGaming and entertainmentSports, trainingTextile industryTelecommunicationsEducation

Commercialisation

Practical information

Requirements for this application type

A complete application consists of the application form and the mandatory attachments and must be submitted via My RCN Web. 

  • The application and all attachments must be submitted in English.
  • All attachments must be uploaded in PDF format.

For more information, see Guidelines for how to complete the application form and Frequently asked questions about Commercialisation Project (attachment opens in a new window).

If you have previously applied for funding for a Proof-of-Concept Project and the application was rejected, it must be clearly stated at the start of the project description what has changed since the previous application.

If an application is re-submitted without significant changes to the project and grant application, the application will be assessed on the basis of the original assessment.

Mandatory attachments 

  • Project description, maximum 10 pages. This must be uploaded as the attachment type “Project description”. 
  • CV of the project manager and all other key members of the project team. This must be uploaded as the attachment type “CV”.
  • Declaration of rights for start-ups. This must be uploaded as the attachment type “Other”.
  • Declaration form for undertakings. This must be uploaded as the attachment type “Other”.
  • Suggestions for referees who can assess the application. This must be uploaded as the attachment type ‘Other’.

Optional attachments

  • Letters of intent from potential customers, industry partners or other project partners. 

All attachments must be submitted together with the application. 

Applications that do not meet the requirements listed above may be rejected. 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 the attachments you upload, so please make sure that you upload the correct file for the selected type of attachment.

Excellence

In this section, the reasoning behind the application and any work carried out prior to the project are assessed.

Research results
• To what extent is the underlying research base adequately described, including who is behind the research and how it originates from publicly funded research in a research organisation, what is novel, why is the research interesting, where is the project on the TRL scale?

Degree of innovation
• To what extent is the need or problem to be solved in a new or better way accounted for and how does it differ from existing solutions (state-of-the-art)?

Impact

In this section, the long-term plan and what will be done after the project has been completed are assessed.

Market insight and areas of application
• To what extent are market insight, areas of use, and the reasons why the results are commercially interesting accounted for? To what extent does the applicant refer to dialogue with relevant actors?
• To what extent is the competition situation identified and accounted for?

Strategy for realisation
• To what extent have the main aspects concerning what will happen after the project been accounted for, including any hypotheses addressing choice of strategy, challenges, risks and rights, expected revenues, investment- and human resources needs?

Benefit to society and sustainability
• To what extent does the project describe important societal challenges that the project may potentially contribute to solve?

Implementation

In this section, the short-term plan and what will be done during the project to trigger the next phase are assessed.

Project plan
• To what extent does the project explain what will be done, why the activities are important, what is considered a successful outcome, and what the results will trigger?
• To what extent does the project present a realistic implementation plan with measurable milestones and associated activities?

Management, team and expertise
• To what extent does the project have access to the necessary resources and expertise to implement the project?
• To what extent does the project have a plan for involving relevant external actors (investors, partners, clients, stakeholders, mentors, public and societal actors, etc.)?

Budget
• To what extent is the budget and the financing realistic, cost-effective, and clearly rooted in the project's plans and resource needs?

Administrative procedures

At least three external referees will assess the applications on the basis of the criteria “Excellence”, “Impact” and “Implementation”’

Examples of typical referees used to consider applications for this call are investors, entrepreneurs, industry leaders and specialists who are familiar with the technology involved or relevant areas of application. The referees are thereby considered representatives of the environments that are the target of the project’s trigger effect.

A mathematical average per application is determined based on the referee assessments. We then rank the applications and place them in one of the following three groups:

  1. Group 1 – Applications with an average mark of above 5. The referees find these applications to be worthy of funding. 
  2. Group 2 – Applications with an average mark of between 4 and 5, and where at least one referee has awarded the application a mark of 6 or better: The referees find these applications not to be worthy of funding, but if there is major disagreement, the application may be considered by a panel if there are sufficient funds available. 
  3. Group 3 – Applications with an average mark of below 4: The referees find these applications not to be worthy of funding.

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 boards will emphasise ensuring a balanced portfolio of projects across sectors in the areas under their purview and in relation to ongoing projects and applications submitted under other calls for proposals. These assessments will be based on the budgetary framework and the text of the call. You can see which projects are in progress in the Project Databank (the page opens in a new window).

Each portfolio board will also act in accordance with the Research Council’s general policy for allocation of funding, including policies on:

  • prioritisation of projects that contribute to Norway becoming a low-emission society, to the green transition or to solving other important societal challenges, assuming all other quality-related factors are essentially equal
  • prioritisation of projects led by women project managers, assuming all other quality-related factors are essentially equal 

Expected funding decision

You will receive an answer to your application as soon as the portfolio board has made its decision, which is expected to be by the end of March 2024. 

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