Joint Nordic research on the offensive: Look to the Nordics!

NordForsk is a Nordic organisation with responsibility for cooperation on research and researcher training in the Nordic region. Here represented by the secretariat. (Photo: Terje Heiestad)

NordForsk is a Nordic organisation with responsibility for cooperation on research and researcher training in the Nordic region. Here represented by the secretariat. (Photo: Terje Heiestad)

“The Nordic countries have a good chance of influencing European research and innovation policy initiatives in areas where there is a common Nordic approach,” says Gunnel Gustafsson, Director of the Nordic research organisation NordForsk.

NordForsk works to promote research and research policy cooperation among the Nordic countries. This year will mark five years since the organisation was founded. “A lot has happened since we started,” states Ms Gustafsson. “Globalisation has gained pace and research priorities have shifted rapidly. This has made it even more essential than before to maintain a continued focus on international and Nordic cooperation,” she says.

According to NordForsk’s new strategy for 2011-2014, the primary objective of the organisation is to promote the development of a globally competitive research area in Europe, the European Research Area (ERA).

Opportunity and change

“European research and innovation cooperation has entered a period of opportunity and change. One exciting development is that the European Commission is increasingly viewing research and innovation together and has now appointed a commissioner responsible for both areas,” says Ms Gustafsson.

“High-calibre research and research-based innovation are essential, though not the only prerequisites, for achieving economic growth and enhancing the quality of life in the Nordic region, and can also help to advance economic and social development in Europe and the rest of the world,” she asserts.

Attracting attention in Europe

The Nordic countries, which consist of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, have a combined population of approximately 25 million and ranks as the tenth largest economy in the world, a position it shares with Canada. The countries have high levels of education, sound national economies and well-functioning political systems. Together, these five small countries on the periphery of Europe can form a critical mass in the European Research Area and in the world in general.

According to the director of NordForsk, the world – and in particular the EU – has now fully realised that the Nordic countries represent a prosperous and forward-thinking region and an interesting research area.

A success story with visions of the future

The Top-level Research Initiative (TRI) is a large-scale joint Nordic initiative focusing on climate, the environment and energy. It is the largest initiative in which NordForsk is involved, together with partners Nordic Energy Research (NEF) and the Nordic Innovation Centre (NICe).

The TRI is more action-oriented than international cooperation programmes tend to be. During the Euroscience Open Forum 2010 conference in Turin in July, the initiative was described as a success story for international cooperation.

“The TRI was inspired by the huge global challenges we are facing. We have successfully implemented a joint funding model of great interest to the EU. In Europe a ‘common pot’ system for research funding has long been sought after. Many are curious to see how we have achieved this in the Nordic region,” Ms Gustafsson explains.

Excellence in research

Over the next year Ms Gustafsson would like the Nordic countries to draw on the resources of NordForsk to plan how the region can reach an even broader audience in Europe and globally.

“We are currently carrying out an evaluation of our portfolio of funding instruments,” says Ms Gustafsson. “So far we can say with certainty that the initiatives we have undertaken under the Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE) Programme have been a great success. We may, perhaps, place even greater focus on this instrument in the years to come.”

Source: Research Council of Norway

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