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Norway invests in infrastructure:

More funding for the tools of research

In the course of the past two years, the Research Council has issued funding announcements totalling NOK 900 million for new research equipment. Funding is available for investments ranging from infrastructure worth millions to expenses for operation of less-costly equipment.

Proper tools are essential if research is to be conducted efficiently and maintain a high standard. For years, Norwegian research groups have voiced their concern about a lack of access to new, advanced equipment. International evaluations have revealed that many of their complaints are not unfounded.

Substantial need
“The Research Council is playing a key role in the effort to meet the substantial need for research equipment at many of Norway’s research institutions. We have already awarded some NOK 500 million under the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure. A funding announcement for a further NOK 400 million was issued in June, with an application submission deadline of 13 October,” says Executive Director Anders Hanneborg at the Research Council.

Until just a few years ago, the Research Council only had the resources to allocate around NOK 20-40 million a year for research equipment.

Yield from the Fund for Research and Innovation
Photo: Sverre Jarild Executive Director Anders Hanneborg (Photo: Sverre Jarild) “We can first and foremost thank the Ministry of Education and Research and the Fund for Research and Innovation for the resources to award new, large-scale grants for research infrastructure. In the period 2009 to 2018, allocations from the Fund will enable us to award a total of NOK 2.8 billion, or approximately NOK 300 million a year on average,” says Mr Hanneborg.

Although this represents a formidable increase in funding, the Research Council emphasises that the Ministry still needs to follow up its escalation plan to achieve NOK 800 million annually in funding for research equipment.

“This is crucial, not least because a large portion of the funding we have at our disposal is already tied up as contributions to pan-European research infrastructure,” he states.

Priority to nationally-oriented infrastructure
The Research Council will primarily be responsible for funding large-scale, nationally-oriented infrastructure – infrastructure which is of major interest to Norway as a whole and which will be available in only one or a few locations in the country, as a general rule.

Mr Hanneborg provides two examples of such infrastructure: “The Norwegian Offshore Wind Energy Research Infrastructure (NOWERI) is developing a floating test turbine for Norwegian wind turbine manufacturers, while the Norwegian Micro- and Nano-Fabrication Facility (NMNF) will give all relevant Norwegian research groups in the field of nanotechnology access to three modernised laboratories in Oslo, Trondheim and Horten.” 

Photo: HUNT BIOSCIENCES EQUIPMENT FOR ALL: Norwegian research groups have lamented the lack of access to new, advanced equipment for many years. (Photo: HUNT BIOSCIENCES)

“Although the infrastructure will be available in only one or a few locations, researchers from groups outside the applicant institution will have access to it,” he points out.

Under the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure (INFRASTRUKTUR), the Research Council allocates funding for equipment with investment costs in the range of NOK 2-200 million. Priority will be given to infrastructure in fields in which Norwegian research groups are already at the forefront and in fields of strategic importance to Norway. The initiative also helps to ensure that responsibilities are unambiguously distributed among the institutions, in line with recommendations set out in the Government white paper on research, Climate for Research.

Support for use of less-costly equipment
The Research Council also provides support to cover equipment-related costs incurred by universities and research institutions when they purchase or lease equipment that is essential to research activities in connection with projects that have been awarded grants under ordinary programmes at the Research Council. This funding is only available for equipment with a purchase price of NOK 100 000 or more.

For example, a research institution purchases a new microscope for NOK 300 000. A project receiving funding from the Research Council will use 50 per cent of the capacity of this microscope for three years. The institution can document related costs by preparing a depreciation schedule, which is common practice in the business sector. A 50 per cent share of these costs may be included in the project costs in the grant application submitted to the Research Council.

A depreciation period of five years is normally applied for such equipment. In the case of the microscope above, this would be NOK 60 000 per year. Research Council support would then total NOK 30 000 annually for the duration of the three-year project period, thus covering “its” (i.e. the Research Council-funded project’s) share of the use of the equipment.

Incorporated into overall project funding
Forskning magazine 3-2010 “This means of support was established in response to requests that the Research Council cover costs related to laboratories and other research equipment according to the proportion of the equipment capacity used. This is also in line with our principle of covering as much of the actual costs of research projects as possible,” explains Mr Hanneborg, who encourages more applicants to apply for funding under the depreciation scheme.

He concludes by giving potential applicants a tip: “In order to successfully seek such funding, it is imperative that research institutions carefully calculate and document the costs related to the equipment that they wish to purchase or lease for their project.”

From Forskning Magazine 3-2010

Infrastructure financing initiative

The National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure (INFRASTRUKTUR) is a 10-year programme (2008-2018) and is funded by allocations from the yield of the Fund for Research and Innovation. An important objective of the initiative is to promote Norway as an attractive partner for international research cooperation by equipping Norwegian research groups with unique, up-to-date research infrastructure. To be eligible for funding, research infrastructure must be nationally-oriented, that is, of major interest to Norway as a whole.

The Research Council also encourages task distribution and collaboration between institutions for the procurement and operation of new, high-cost equipment.

Roadmap for infrastructure

The Research Council has drawn up a Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure. The Council was assigned this task in Report No. 30 (2008-2009) to the Storting, Climate for Research, which identified the need for a guide for establishing priorities for Norway’s current and future large-scale investments in research infrastructure.

Of the 260 grant proposals received in response to the first funding announcement issued under the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure in 2009, 17 Norwegian infrastructure projects were selected for inclusion on the roadmap. All of the projects have investment costs in the range of NOK 30-200 million. Nine of these projects have received funding; the remaining eight are considered “investment-ready” by the Research Council.

Depreciation of equipment

Applicants seeking ordinary project funding from the Research Council may also apply for funding to cover depreciation costs as well as operating costs for equipment purchased expressly for their project. The equipment must have a purchase price of more than NOK 100 000. If the equipment will be used by projects other than the one receiving Research Council funding, the Council may cover a percentage of the costs equal to the share of the capacity used. For example, if the equipment is used two days a week by the Research Council-funded project, the Research Council may cover 40 per cent of the annual costs. Support to cover equipment purchases and related operating costs may be sought under all of the funding initiatives at the Research Council. 


Written by:
Bård Amundsen. Translation: Victoria Coleman/Carol B. Eckmann
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