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The Research Council of Norway

Stensberggata 26
P.O.Box 2700 St. Hanshaugen
N 0131 Oslo
Tel. + 47 22 03 70 00
Fax + 47 22 03 70 01

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We are faced with major changes on the scientific scene, on the technological scene, and in the market place. The sources of comparative advantage are being redefined. In a daring reform, the Research Council of Norway was established on 1 January 1993, as a merger of the five former research councils, and as a consequence of a radically changing science and technology context. The Research Council of Norway is an administrative body organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs.

In short, the new model with a single, fully integrated research council, means more flexibility, improved efficiency and more opportunities for fruitful and stimulating collaboration between various parts of the Norwegian science and technology system. The organizational structure of the Research Council is also unusual. Rather than following the traditional disciplinary border lines, the Council's six operational divisions are given a sectorial orientation; Bioproduction and Processing, Industry and Energy, Culture and Society, Medicine and Health, Environment and Development, and Science and Technology. Within their respective sectors of responsibility, all divisions except for Industry and Energy, have a vertical responsibility for basic and applied research. Already the Norwegian Experiment has aroused considerable international attention. In addition to managing nearly a third of total public allocations to Norwegian research, the Research Council is also given a strategic role as national adviser to the Government on science and technology policy, both upon request and on its own initiative. The Council's ambition is to provide counsel that gives the authorities a sound foundation for formulating a comprehensive science and technology policy, based on the scientific and technological, as well as cultural, economic and social challenges on a long-term perspective.Great things do not happen in five years, they take a decade or two to come true. The way to sustain support, investment, and commitment for national research priorities for more than a legislative term, or longer than news bites will keep them in the forefront of our consciousness, is with a vision that is agreed to and supported by various stakeholders.

In this respect, the Research Council has an important role to play as actor, but more especially as facilitator, by providing sound analysis, by facilitating group consensus and strategic long-term thinking, by creating enthusiasm, or by sheer evangelism.

Over recent years, there has been increasing recognition that scientific excellence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. Thus, one of the Research Council's chief tasks is to stimulate better co-operation and co-ordination, to rejuvenate the Norwegian science and technology infrastructure. The Research Council of Norway bears total responsibility for Norwegian basic and applied research, and must also ensure that the country benefits from international scientific developments. While demanding attention to the totality, this also requires an ability to balance between various participants' viewpoints and interests in establishing ownership to national research priorities. In this context, The Research Council's role is to act as a vital link between political aspirations, user needs, and both the possibilities and limitations of research. The Research Council of Norway has a total budget of NOK 2,400 million in 1995. The major part of the income comes from government ministries as general funds and specific programme and project funds. At present, the Research Council's funds are allocated between industry (36 percent), research institutes (35 percent), universities and colleges (21 percent), and other sectors (8 percent).Priority setting is probably the central issue in research management, working out which activities should grow and which should be wound back. In its recent research strategy, which is to be a blueprint for future budget allocations, the Research Council of Norway is advocating giving priority to the following areas of research:

  • Environmental research
  • Industrial R&D
  • Marine research
  • Basic research
  • Scientific personnel
  • International R&D collaboration

The XXII Olympic Winter Games held in Lillehammer, Norway were a great success, by all standards. Now is the time to prove that in research too we can really perform and deliver when it counts. We must, and we will, demonstrate our strength in the fields where we as a country have advantages, and utilize available knowledge and technology in areas where we have much to gain.

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