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Positive evaluations of the NANO2021 and BIOTEK2021 technology programmes

Two of the Research Council of Norway’s large-scale technology programmes have been evaluated after five years of operation. The evaluation reports praise both programmes while also recommending certain changes.

“The evaluation reports show that both the Large-scale Programme on Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (NANO2021) and the Research Programme on Biotechnology for Innovation (BIOTEK2021) have good momentum and are on the right track. The evaluators did not point out any areas where a significant change of course is needed, but they did give the Research Council valuable input for improvements to both programmes,” says Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Research Council’s Division for Innovation.

The two evaluations were carried out by the consulting firm Technopolis Group in cooperation with external expert groups appointed by the Research Council.

Both BIOTEK2021 and NANO2021 have good momentum and are on the right track, says Anne Kjersti Fahlvik. (Photo: Sverre Chr. Jarild) Praised for focus on responsible innovation

One of the many activities evaluated was the programmes’ work to promote responsible innovation.

“For both programmes, the evaluation reports highlight the efforts towards and implementation of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) as particularly interesting and successful,” says Ms Fahlvik.

The NANO2021 programme is approaching its target of awarding 15 per cent of funding to RRI activities. Both programmes are at the international forefront when it comes to implementing RRI perspectives and could be considered sources of inspiration for funding agencies around the world.

“The Research Council has worked hard to raise awareness about social responsibility related to technology development,” adds Ms Fahlvik. “It is gratifying that the evaluation reports underscore the positive impacts of these efforts in particular.”

The evaluators recommend continuing the practice of having the projects themselves define which aspects of RRI are relevant for their research. Both programmes are praised for using expert referees with a dedicated focus on RRI in the assessment of grant applications.

Looking to implement the recommendations

At the overall level, the evaluation reports state that both programmes are well on their way to achieving their respective long-term objectives.

“Biotechnology is a large, rapidly expanding technology area in Norway and internationally,” continues Ms Fahlvik. “The evaluation of the BIOTEK2021 programme shows there is potential for social and commercial innovation and value creation from the programme’s projects.”

The BIOTEK2021 programme is commended for its funding scheme for optimisation projects in the university and university college sector, whose aim is to develop research results towards commercial application. The evaluation report recommends continuing  and further developing this scheme.

The report states that the Strategic Initiative “Digital Life – Convergence for Innovation” makes a valuable contribution in terms of the research necessary for dealing with societal challenges, and that it should be continued and developed further,  as well as evaluated separately.

“Nanotechnology is a smaller research area that is less mature in this country,” adds Ms Fahlvik. “But there is a great deal of activity and interest among R&D groups, and some exciting innovation is taking place in trade and industry. It is important that we continue to pursue broadly focused efforts in this area.”

Currently, a small number of institutions dominate the field of nanotechnology in Norway, but more are emerging. According to the evaluation report, industry participation in the NANO2021 programme is concentrated in small companies representing a fledgling industry. It recommends that the programme broadens industry participation and involvement and further strengthens ties between industry and the university and university college and research institute sectors.

The Research Council will incorporate the evaluation reports’ recommendations when revising plans for the programmes.

Written by:
Karin Totland. Translation: Darren McKellep/Victoria Coleman.
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