Planned

Centre for Research-based Innovation – SFI V – Phase 2

Important dates

MID-DECEMBER 2024

The decision on which applications are eligible to apply in Phase 2 will be published

23 Apr 2025

Open for applications

04 Jun 2025

Application deadline

PLANNED OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2025

Decision to award new SFI centres

01 Nov 2025

Earliest permitted project start

01 May 2026

Latest permitted project start

30 Apr 2034

Latest permitted project completion date

Important dates

Purpose

Funding is available for up to eight new Centres for Research-based Innovation - SFI. The objective of the SFI scheme is to promote innovation by supporting long-term research through close collaboration between R&D-intensive enterprises and prominent research institutions. SFI aims to strengthen the innovation capacity of Norwegian trade and industry through research that addresses long-term needs, challenges and future opportunities for value creation. Research is to be conducted in binding, long-term cooperation between research organisations and companies, preferably also in cooperation with the public sector. The research must be of a high international level and provide a basis for innovations and increased value creation in Norwegian trade and industry.

About the call for proposals

What objectives must the centres meet? 

SFI aims to contribute to strengthening the innovation capacity of the business sector through research that responds to long-term needs and challenges identified by the business sector. The centre will contribute to developing a business sector with competitiveness in a low-emission society and sustainability with regard to climate, environment and society. The centres should have a positive or neutral effect on the green restructuring of Norwegian trade and industry. 

See our webinar for applicants about the SFI call for proposals. 

The SFI scheme is intended to contribute to: 

  • The results of the research are to provide a basis for innovations and increased value creation in Norwegian trade and industry and/or increased efficiency and good services in the Norwegian public sector. 
  • Through cooperation with leading research institutions and access to high-quality research, the business sector must achieve increased competitiveness nationally and internationally. 
  • The centres are intended to increase the internationalisation of Norwegian trade and industry and research institutions, for example through strong national and international research networks and value chains. 
  • The centres will contribute to master's and research training to meet competence needs in industry and the public sector. 

In order to facilitate the use of research results by industry and the public sector for innovations, a high degree and genuine involvement of partners in the centre is required. In addition, the centre must have expertise in the field of innovation. Innovations based on research results from the centres are expected to be followed up by the centre's partners in separate activities, initiatives and projects. 

Applicants must familiarise themselves with the call for proposals and the Requirements and Guidelines for Societal and Industry-oriented Research Centres (pdf).  

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

Who is eligible to apply?

Approved Norwegian research organisations may apply in effective collaboration with partners from other research organisations, trade and industry and the public sector. 

See here for the list of approved Norwegian research organisations and the definition of public sector.  

Private companies and any public actors must participate as partners and will be referred to as user partners. 

Who can participate in the project?

Requirements relating to the Project Owner 

  • The Project Owner must be an approved research organisation. 
  • The research organisation listed as the Project Owner in the application form must have approved submission of the grant application. 
  • The Project Owner (organisation) submits the grant application on behalf of all partners. 

Requirements relating to the project manager 

  • The project manager (centre director) must document experience from managing large, complex projects. 
  • The Project Manager must be employed by the Project Owner or one of the partners. 

Requirements relating to partners 

  • The research carried out in the centre is to be conducted by research organisations in effective collaboration with relevant actors from Norwegian trade and industry and the public sector. For a more detailed description of collaboration and roles, see the document Requirements and Guidelines for Societal and Industry-oriented Research Centres.  
  • The grant application must reflect the strategic objectives of all partners. 
  • The centre must have three or more funding partners that are not research organisations; these are referred to as user partners. The centre must always include private companies as user partners. The centre may also have foreign user partners. You must document how any foreign user partners will contribute to achieving the centre's goals.   
  • All user partners must participate actively in funding and research, and must have substantial innovation activities of their own and the ability to exploit research results in the development of their activities. 
  • All partners must actively contribute to the planning, follow-up and dissemination of results from the centre, and to ensuring that new knowledge is utilised. 
  • The centre will have a board where the majority of the members and the chairman represent the user partners. 

What can you seek funding for?

Scope of funding 

User funding included in the centre may not be used as business funding for other Research Council-funded projects at a later date. This also applies to user financing provided during the centre period. 

  • You can apply for funding to cover actual costs that are necessary to carry out the centre's activities. 
  • You can apply for from NOK 50 million to NOK 96 million spread over eight years. 3/8 of the Research Council's funding shall be budgeted over the last three years of the centre period. Based on recommendations from the assessments of the centre, the Research Council may make new conditions in the contract for the centre's activities during the last three years of the project period.
  • The Research Council's total funding may not exceed two times the amount of funding from the user partners. Both cash financing and financing in the form of the user partners' own work effort in the centre (so-called "in kind") should be included in the user financing. Experience shows that it is beneficial to keep a certain balance between the proportion of "in kind" and the share of cash financing from user partners. 
  • In addition to funding from user partners, the Project Owner and other research partners in the centre may contribute own funding, but this is not a requirement. It is not possible to use funding from other Research Council funded projects as part of the funding from the host institution and research partners. 
  • It is not possible to use funding from the Research Council to cover project costs incurred by user partners.
  • Research stays abroad for PhD candidates at the centre and stays for visiting researchers in Norway must be covered within the framework of the project. 

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

Conditions for funding 

We do not award state aid under this call. We assume that the research is carried out through effective collaboration 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 more parties may bear all the costs of the project, thereby relieving other parties of financial risk. Contract research and provision of research services are not considered forms of collaboration." 

The following guidelines apply: 

  • Support to the research organisations in the centre goes to the organisations' non-economic activity. Thus, it does not constitute state aid. The Research Council requires that the necessary accounting separation is in place. 
  • Companies will not be eligible to receive support to cover project costs. Business actors and others who are to be regarded as undertakings in the sense of state aid law will not be reimbursed for any of their costs associated with participation in the centre. 
  • Rights to project results are to be regulated in such a way that companies participating in the centre do not receive indirect state aid from participating research partners. The regulation of rights must therefore be in line with paragraph 29 of the EFTA Surveillance Authority's guidelines on state aid for research and development and innovation. This means that rights to IPR from the project must be allocated to the various partners in a way that adequately reflects their work packages, contributions and respective interests. 

The Research Council's requirements relating to allocation and disbursement of support for the first year, and any pledges and payments for subsequent years, are set out in our General Terms and Conditions for R&D Projects,  which can be found in their entirety on the page What the contract involves.  

If you are granted the project, the following must be in place before you enter into a contract with us: 

Reporting and disbursement of funding

We will disburse the funding in arrears. For more information about funding, see the document "Requirements and Guidelines for Societal and Industry-oriented Research Centres", which can be found under "About the call". All reporting must be done electronically. 

Relevant thematic areas for this call

Innovation

Practical information

Requirements for this application type

You can revise and submit the application several times until the application deadline expires. We recommend that you submit your application as soon as you have completed the application form and uploaded the mandatory attachments. When the application deadline expires, it is the version of the application that was submitted most recently that we will process. 

  • The grant application and all attachments must be submitted in English. 
  • All attachments must be in PDF format. 
  • Mandatory attachments must be included. 
  • Requirements relating to the Project Owner (research organisation) must be satisfied. 
  • Requirements relating to partners must be met. 
  • A maximum of ten CVs can be submitted. 

Mandatory attachments 

  • The project description of maximum 20 pages plus 1 page with references. The project description must use the designated template found at the end of this call. 
  • CV for the project manager (centre director) of maximum 4 pages, using the designated template found at the end of this call. 
  • CVs for up to nine key persons in the project, of maximum 4 pages, using the designated template found at the end of this call: 
    • Researchers attaching CVs must use the template "Template for CV researchers". 
    • People who are submitting their CV and who do not work at a research organisation can use the template "Template for CV" 
  • Letter of Intent from the Project Owner and all registered research partners. Letters of intent must be a maximum of three pages and in English. The declarations must have the following content: 
    • Each partner must confirm their intention to participate actively as a partner in the centre and describe how this will be done in practice. 
    • The partner must justify their interest in participating in the centre. In what way will the centre's activities benefit the partner and create opportunities that would not be there without the centre? 
    • The partner must summarise their contribution to the centre in the form of knowledge, expertise and any funding, facilities and own efforts over the centre's lifetime. 
    • The partner must explain their own long-term R&D plans and how this fits with what the centre will do (strategic anchoring). 
    • A letter of intent from the Project Owner (organisation) must also include a declaration from management stating that the organisation will undertake the obligations entailed in a contract with the Research Council. The declaration must also explain how the centre is part of the Project Owner organisation's scientific strategy. 
  • Letters of Intent from registered user partners. The Letter of Intent must use the designated template found at the end of this call. 
  • An overview of the total user funding provided to the centre using a fixed template, which can be found at the end of this call. 

Optional attachments 

  • Suggestions for up to five referees who can be assumed to be impartial to assess the application in phase 2 of the call. 
  • A description of any changes in the consortium or other changes in the project from Phase 1 to Phase 2, including an explanation of why the project is of the same quality as before. 

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 light of the objectives of the call and in accordance with the following criteria:

Excellence

The extent to which the centre is ambitious, innovative and moves the research frontier
• Scientific creativity and originality.
• The extent to which hypotheses and research questions are innovative and bold.
• The extent to which the centre has the potential to generate new knowledge that moves the research front, including significant development/renewal of theory, methods, experiments or empirical knowledge.
• The extent to which the centre's research is relevant to innovation and has potential for development of innovations that address the current and future needs or market opportunities of user partners in the private or public sectors.

The quality of the centre's R&D activities
• The quality of the research questions, hypotheses and the centre's objectives, and the extent to which they are clearly described.
• The extent to which the theoretical approach, research design and choice of method are credible and appropriate, and interdisciplinary approaches have been adequately assessed.
• The extent to which the centre takes satisfactory account of social responsibility, ethical issues and the gender dimension in research.
• The extent to which the centre relates to users/stakeholders' knowledge in a satisfactory manner.

Impact

Potential impacts of the proposed research
• The extent to which the centre's planned results can contribute to addressing important scientific challenges, both now and in the future.
• The extent to which the centre's planned results can respond to important challenges in the sector(s), both now and in the future.
• The extent to which competence development and the centre's planned results will provide a basis for value creation in Norwegian industry and/or the public sector.
• The extent to which the centre's Planned results are relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals or have the potential to contribute to addressing other important societal challenges, both now and in the future.
• The extent to which the potential impacts are clearly formulated and credible.

Communication and utilisation
• The extent to which appropriate practice for open research is an integral part of the project to ensure open sharing and extensive access to research results.
• The quality and scope of communication and involvement activities aimed at relevant stakeholders/users.
• The extent to which the partners are involved in the work of utilising the centre's results.

Implementation

The quality of the project manager (centre director) and project group
• The extent to which the project manager (centre director) has relevant expertise and experience and is qualified to lead an initiative of this size
• The extent to which the project participants complement each other, and to what extent the project group possesses the necessary expertise to implement the centre initiative effectively.

The quality of the centre's organisation and management
• The extent to which it provides added value that the research activities are organised as one centre rather than several separate projects.
• The extent to which the centre will be organised effectively, including whether the resources allocated to the various work packages are adequate and in accordance with the centre's objectives and deliverables.
• The extent to which the tasks in the centre are distributed in a way that ensures that all project participants have a clear role and sufficient resources to fulfil this role.
• The extent to which management and governance in the centre are appropriately organised, including risk management and innovation management.
• The extent to which the partners contribute to the management and implementation of the centre.

The quality and degree of international cooperation
• The extent to which the scope and quality of the international cooperation activities are in line with the centre's objectives.

Gender balance in the centre's project group
• If there is poor gender balance in the centre's management team (centre director and research managers), the extent to which plans to support the development of research talents of the underrepresented gender towards qualification for senior-level positions are appropriate.

Relevance | SFI

• The extent to which the centre is based on identified needs and commitments for the involvement and co-financing of user partners.
• The extent to which the centre has good plans and processes for promoting innovation and following up results with innovation potential and includes innovation expertise.
• The extent to which the centre will contribute to developing an industry sector with competitiveness in a low-emission society and sustainability with regard to climate, the environment and society. The centre is to have a positive or neutral effect on the green restructuring of Norwegian trade and industry.

NB! The full description of the administrative procedure in phase 2 will be published before 18 September 2024. 

Once we have received the application, we will carry out a preliminary check to see that all formal requirements have been met. Applications that do not satisfy the formal requirements will be rejected. 

Where the requirements are met, we will make the application, with all mandatory attachments, available in an online portal for referees who individually assess the criteria "Quality research and innovation", "Impact and impact" and "Implementation". The referees will then meet in referee panels to reach a consensus-based assessment of the grant application on each of the three criteria. The panels will be composed of referees who together have relevant scientific and business and social expertise in relevant topics and subject areas. 

Grant applications will also be assessed on the criterion 'Relevance to the call for proposals' by case officers in the Research Council. 

Among the highest ranked applications, we will invite approximately twice as many applicants as may be funded, to an interview. 

We expect to publish which applications will be awarded funding in October/November 2025. 

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