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Qualification – Research Commercialisation from Publicly Funded Research 2024

Purpose

Commercialisation projects are intended to contribute to increased commercial use of publicly funded research.

The purpose of a qualification project is to carry out initial investigations into possible areas of commercial potential, which form the basis for further choices, including further directions of research, technology development and strategic decisions. The results from a completed qualification project can be used to support an application for further commercialisation through a proof-of-concept project, which could be the next step in bringing research results closer to a market-ready product or solution.

On our information page about Commercialisation Projects you will find useful practical information, frequently asked questions, examples of project and more.

About the call for proposals

The process of commercialising research results is often a long and complex journey towards a possible market. In Norway, funding agencies offer support for various phases of maturity in the process of commercialising research results.

Through the commercialisation instruments Qualification and Verification, the Research Council offers support for the pre-commercial phase, from research results to technology verification. Horizon Europe offers similar instruments through Proof-of-concept (ERC Pillar I) and Transition (EIC Pillar III).

Research results often form the basis for several possible commercial applications. The aim of a qualification project is to explore and identify the most promising commercial application possibilities. This involves preliminary commercial investigations, which forms the basis for further technology verification and development.

Once the application possibilities have been clarified, the next step in the process is to verify the technology according to its intended commercial use. This can be done through a verification project, to ensure the viability of the technology in a future market.

The pre-commercial phase is often characterised by close cooperation between academic and research environments, at the same time it is also essential to have an active dialogue with market participants and potential funders. This may include private investors, partners, licensees, etc. The goal is to define and achieve clear milestones that can trigger further funding after the technology has been verified.

Commercialisation support is intended to contribute to increased commercial use of publicly funded research. To qualify for such funding, projects must originate from approved Norwegian research organisations and must not have previously received commercialisation support from the Research Council.

Typical characteristics of a qualification project

  • Based on publicly funded research: Qualification projects are based on research results from approved Norwegian research organisations. These results should be unique and not openly available (not open source or already published) to ensure the possibility of copyright protection. Projects must represent significant improvements in relation to existing knowledge or state-of-the-art, and have the potential to form the basis for new products, processes or services. 
  • In the pre-commercial phase: The projects are at an early stage and there is a need for preliminary investigations of possible applications 
  • Need to clarify directions: There is a need to clarify important crossroads for the project, which may include further research directions, technology development, or other strategic decisions. 
  • Defined goals and expectations: The projects have defined clear goals for what is sought to be achieved during the project period and what triggering effect this will have on the next phase. 

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

Project duration can be from three to twelve months. The call for proposals is "ongoing" without a deadline, which means that once the application has been submitted via "My RCN Web", it will no longer be possible to make changes. Applications will be assessed and approved on an ongoing basis. You will receive an answer to your application as soon as possible (normally five to six weeks), but no later than three months after you have submitted your application. The earliest permitted project start-up is the day after the application has been submitted.

The call is available in both Norwegian and English. The Norwegian call text is legally binding.

Who is eligible to apply?

The following actors may serve as applicants:

  • Approved Norwegian research organisations
  • Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs)
  • Start-ups originating from approved Norwegian research organisations, i.e. the research organisation(s) that own the rights, have chosen to establish a new company for the further commercialisation process.

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the Project Owner

The Project Owner organisation must be one of the following:

Research organisation

The call is open to approved Norwegian research organisations. See here for 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-ups

  • Start-ups must originate from approved research organisations where the research results originate, i.e. it must be clearly stated that the research organisation has been involved in the decision to establish the company, and the company must fulfil the criteria set out in Article 22 of the General Block Exemption Regulation
  • Start-ups must enclose a declaration of rights from the research organisation's management or their TTO, confirming that the research originated in the said research organisation, and that the company has the necessary rights to further develop the research results for commercial use.
  • Start-up companies must enclose a self-declaration confirming the size of the company and that they do not have outstanding repayment claims.
  • Sole proprietorships may not serve as an applicant.

For more information, see 'Conditions for funding' below.

Requirements relating to the project manager

The organisation listed as the Project Owner in the application form must have approved the project manager submitting the grant application.

Requirements relating to partners

  • Eligible projects do not typically have partners, unless the Project Owner shares rights to project results with others who fulfil the criteria under "Who is eligible to apply?". Eligible projects, on the other hand, often have subcontractors. See below about requirements for subcontractors.
  • Any partners are to be registered in the grant application form with the role "both research and funding", and the Project Owner must enter into an agreement with the partner that regulates the rights and obligations in connection with any awards and contracts.

Examples of projects that must involve partners:

  • When a TTO is listed as the Project Owner, the research organisation that owns the intellectual property rights must be a project partner.
  • When a start-up company is the Project Owner and shares rights to project results with a research organisation/TTO, the research organisation/TTO must be a partner. However, a start-up company may not be a partner if a TTO/research organisation is the Project Owner.

Requirements relating to subcontractors

  • Please note that the role "Only research activity" is not to be used in applications for qualification projects.
  • Suppliers to the project of consultancy, development or other services shall be subcontractors.
  • A subcontractor assists with the implementation of specific and delimited tasks in the project, but cannot be granted rights to project results.
  • Subcontractors are not to be registered in the application form, but assignments of a larger scope must be described in the grant application (budget specification and project description).
  • The Company and any subcontractors must be independent parties, in the sense that one cannot have a controlling influence over the other.

On our website you will find more information about collaboration agreements and the use of subcontractors.

What can you seek funding for?

You can apply for funding to cover up to 100 per cent of the budgeted project costs.

Project costs are actual costs that are necessary to carry out the project. Please note that the item "Procurement of R&D services" is not to be used in this call. The type of costs must be entered as other operating expenses in the application form.

Typical activities include

  • clarifying application possibilities, market potential, willingness to pay, business models and strategy, important clarifications that form the basis for further technology verification and development
  • developing the basis for "Freedom to operate", prepare and submit patent applications
  • optimising, clarifying or demonstrating technology concepts and results
  • establishing contact with potential licensees, industry partners, customers, user groups and investors to clarify important questions and further options

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

  • licences or purchase of rights to research results
  • operating expenses such as maintenance of patents or other operating activities
  • costs related to financing the educational pathways for PhD candidates (doctoral and postdoctoral candidates). Research fellows may, on the other hand, be part of the project group and carry out activities for the project. The support can be used to cover time to participate in the project for research fellows.

Detailed and important information about What to enter into the budget can be found on the website and in our Guidelines for completing the application form that have been specifically prepared for commercialisation applications.

Conditions for funding

Our allocation of the grant rests on the allocation of funding for commercialisation to the Research Council over the state budget. 

Research organisations and TTOs

Approved Norwegian research organisations, the TTOs representing these and any partners that are to receive support must satisfy the definition of a research and knowledge transfer organisation set out in the state aid rules. Any other partners will not be eligible to receive support from the Research Council for 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 19(b) of the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation

Applicants must ensure that there is no indirect support for partner companies, for example in the form of favourably priced rights to results. The collaboration agreement must ensure that rights to 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 is knowledge transfer activity?

In order to be considered part of the research organisation's non-economic activity, the knowledge-transfer activity must, in accordance with the EFTA Surveillance Authority's guidelines, either be carried out by the research organisation itself or in cooperation with or on behalf of other such entities.

The term knowledge transfer is defined as follows in the EFTA Surveillance Authority's guidelines on state aid for R&D:

"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.

All profits from knowledge-transfer activities must also be reinvested in the primary activities of the research organisation. In that case, the support for knowledge-transfer activities does not constitute state aid. It is important to note that the activities do not lose their non-economic nature as third parties provide these services through open tenders.

We assume that the necessary separation of accounts for the research organisation's/TTO's economic and non-economic activities is in place.

See more on our information page: Conditions for awarding state aid

Start-ups

Start-ups must be aware that the aid is awarded as state aid pursuant to Article 22 of the General Block Exemption Regulation for state aid (Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014).

Allocation of funds is to be practised 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. If there is conflict between the text of the call and the state aid rules, the latter shall take precedence. For the same reason, the call may also be adjusted.

The Research Council may not award aid to an undertaking that has not fulfilled the repayment requirement pursuant to a previous decision by the EFTA Surveillance Authority/the European Commission, which has been declared to be illegal and incompatible with the internal market.

Article 22 of the General Block Exemption Regulation provides, inter alia, that the company

  • Must be unlisted
  • was registered less than five years ago
  • has not taken over the activity of another undertaking, with the exceptions set out in Art. 22 (2) a)
  • has not distributed dividends
  • not formed through a merger, with the exceptions set out in Article 22 (2) (c) or Art. 22 (2) third paragraph.

In addition to the requirements above, the Research Council stipulates the following additional requirements:

  • The company must have fewer than ten employees
  • The company may have a maximum annual turnover of NOK 2 million and/or annual balance sheet

When assessing the size of the enterprise, the applicant must also take into account the number of employees and the turnover/balance sheet in companies that have an ownership interest of 25 per cent or more in the company, or in which the enterprise itself has an ownership interest of 25 per cent or more. See the definition of SMEs in Annex I of the General Block Exemption Regulation and the EU guide to the SME definition

The call for proposals has been approved as an aid scheme to the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) with reference xx/2024/SME (the correct reference will be made available at a later date).

Other requirements relating to the project

  • The qualification project must be in a pre-commercial phase and there is a need for preliminary investigations of possible applications.
  • Research results must be unique and not openly available (not open source or already published) to ensure the possibility of rights protection.
  • The research results must represent significant improvements in relation to existing knowledge or "state-of-the-art" and have the potential to form the basis for new products, processes or services.

The applicant must be aware of the following:

Termination of the project contract

It is important that agreed milestones are reached at the agreed time. This will be given considerable weight when assessing whether the project support should be maintained or whether the contract should be terminated.

Examples of significant reasons that may lead to amendment or termination of the contract are that:

  • the conditions set out in the call for proposals and the agreed prerequisites for awards will be breached
  • project progress is not according to plan
  • key members of the project are no longer part of the project
  • the project no longer has access to critical and necessary resources or equipment
  • results or new information have emerged that significantly weaken the commercial potential of the project

Reporting and disbursement of funds

All projects awarded funding under this call are expected to submit a final report and a simplified report no later than one month after the end of the project period.

Start-ups are required to report their accounts annually.

Funding will be disbursed in arrears and only actual costs entered in the institution's accounts will be covered. All reporting shall be done electronically.

For start-up companies, the grant is disbursed based on project account reports for the period to which the costs apply. Project account reports can be submitted continuously throughout the project period.

For other applicants, the grant will be disbursed on the basis of the submitted EHF invoice to the Research Council (non-automatic payment).

Relevant thematic areas for this call

This call is open to all disciplines. The Research Council attaches importance to achieving a balanced portfolio of supported projects across sectors and subject areas.

Trade and industry

Building, construction and miningAnimal healthEnergyFinance and bankingFisheries and aquacultureHealth industryICT industryAgricultureAviationMaritime industryFoodMedia and communicationThe environmentFood industryOil, gasPolice, fire and rescue, defenceProcessing industryTravel and tourismSpace explorationShippingForests and woodSmart cityGaming and entertainmentSports, trainingTextile industryTelecommunicationsTransport and communicationsEducationRetail/wholesaleManufacturing industryOther servicesTrade and industry throughout the country

Practical information

Requirements for this application type

Please note that the application can only be submitted once. If you wish to change the application after it has been submitted, you can create a new application – e.g. as a copy of the already submitted application.

A complete application consists of an application form and mandatory attachments submitted via "My RCN Web".

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

For more information, see Guidelines for completing the application form and Frequently asked questions about Commercialisation Projects.

If you have previously applied for a commercialisation project and have been rejected, it must be clearly stated at the beginning of the project description what has changed since the previous application.

If you resubmit a previously rejected application without significant changes to the project and the grant application, we will use the original scientific assessment as a basis for further application processing.

Mandatory attachments

  • Project description of max 5 pages. This must be uploaded as attachment type "Project description".
  • CV for the project manager and key participants in the project team. This is to be uploaded as attachment type "CV".
  • Declaration of rights for start-up companies. This is to be uploaded as attachment type "Other". NB! If you are not going to hand in this form, you must upload a blank document under "Other".
  • Self-declaration for start-ups. This is to be uploaded as attachment type "Other". NB! If you are not going to hand in this form, you must upload a blank document under "Other".

Use default templates for all required attachments. These can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.

Optional attachments

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

All attachments to the application must be submitted with the application. We will not accept attachments submitted after the application deadline unless we have requested additional documentation.

We will not consider documents and websites linked to in the application, or attachments other than those specified above. Be careful to upload the correct attachment type, as there are no technical restrictions on what kind of templates it is possible to upload in the application form.

Assessment criteria

Grant applications will be assessed in the light of the objective of the call and the following criteria:

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?

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?

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.)?

Relevance to the call for proposals

The extent to which the project satisfies the guidelines and stipulations set out in the call for proposals.

Assuming all factors relating to quality assessments are equal, priority will be given to:

  • projects with female project managers
  • projects that help Norway become a low-emission society, to the green transition or to solving other important societal challenges

Administrative procedures

Grant applications will be assessed by at least two case officers from the Research Council in accordance with the criteria 'Research and innovation', 'Impact and 'Implementation'. The case officers have expertise in the commercialisation of research results and knowledge of relevant technology or areas of application. If the overall average mark for these three criteria is 5 or higher on a scale with 7 as the highest mark, the application will also be assessed on the basis of the criterion 'Relevance to the call for proposals'.

The assessment and marks for all of the assessment criteria will be consolidated into an average mark as an overall expression of the overall assessment of the application.

The administration will then present the applications with their respective marks for the decision. It is the chief executive who is the granting body and makes the final decision on the award.

The Research Council attaches importance to ensuring that the best projects are given priority and that the assessments made are well-founded. The assessments as such are of benefit to applicants as they provide valuable feedback, regardless of whether the project receives support or not.

Please note that if a previously unsuccessful application is resubmitted, without significant changes to the project and the grant application, the original scientific assessment will form the basis for further application processing.

Expected funding decision

Applications will be assessed and approved on an ongoing basis. You will receive an answer to your application as soon as possible (normally five to six weeks), but no later than three months after submitting your application.

Create application

Applications for Qualification – Research Commercialisation from Publicly Funded Research 2024 should be created on My RCN Web. Application templates should be filled and uploaded in the application.

Create application

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