The Norwegian ERA Forum: Must step up the pace towards 2020
Both the EU and Norway must increase their efforts if they are to succeed in removing all barriers in the European Research Area (ERA) by 2020, said Anneli Pauli of the European Commission when she visited the Norwegian ERA Forum in February.
“To reach the goal of free movement of researchers and knowledge in Europe by 2020, the development of ERA clearly has to be sped up compared with what we have seen so far,” emphasizes Ms Pauli, who is Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research.
At the same time, however, Ms Pauli praised Norway’s commitment to a common European Research Area. “ERA is a concept that depends on binding commitment, and Norway’s active efforts to promote ERA have been noted by the EU,” she emphasized. ”Not being a member of the EU, Norway gets nothing for free in this context, so it is especially important that you show initiative,” said Ms Pauli. She also emphasized that Norway is more active than many EU member states in this connection.
The research administration must lead the way
“Norwegian research is dependent on an even greater degree of international collaboration if it is to improve further. Those of us who work in research administration in Norway must actively promote ERA,” said Director General Arvid Hallén of the Research Council in his contribution at the ERA Forum.
He emphasized that ERA is important if we are to address the great challenges facing society today: climate, energy, food and health. Dr Hallén referred to the new strategy for international cooperation that the Research Council has now distributed for consultation. The strategy clearly illustrates that the development of ERA will have a major influence on different areas of the Research Council’s work, including:
- Program implementation/funding activities
- Priorities in relation to national infrastructure
- Stays for Norwegian researchers at foreign institutions
- Facilitation of better framework conditions for the participation of Norwegian institutions in EU research.
Norway cannot wait
“Being such a small country, Norway has to collaborate with others on research,” said Kyrre Lekve, State Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Research.
A good example of this is research infrastructure. Two large international infrastructures are planned in Norway – we could never afford to build these for our own use alone, but European cooperation makes it possible. He also mentioned groundbreaking medical research that could not have been financed in Norway, but to which Norwegian researchers are now contributing important expertise.
Mr Lekve is pleased that many foreign researchers are working in Norway, but points out that it is a challenge that Norwegians themselves do not work enough abroad.
“We have to motivate our researchers to work for periods at foreign institutions, and to bring international experience and perspectives back home to Norway. ERA facilitates this by working to find good, common welfare and pension schemes,” emphasized Mr Lekve.
Norwegian participation in EU initiatives
The Commission has established five initiatives aimed at speeding up the development of the European Research Area:
- A major, common European initiative for the development of infrastructure (ESFRI)
- Common social benefits and efforts to increase researcher mobility (Better Careers and more mobility)
- Large-scale European joint programs (Joint Programming)
- Cooperation with countries outside the EU (International cooperation)
- Knowledge sharing and international property rights (IPR).
Norway is represented on all five initiatives. At the Norwegian ERA Forum, the Norwegian representatives delivered status reports on activities in each of these areas.
The Research Council of Norway and the Ministry of Education and Research organize an annual Norwegian ERA Forum to update stakeholders and decision makers in the Norwegian research community and give them an opportunity to discuss what should be done to develop the European Research Area.
“The ERA Forum emphasizes strategic dialogue with research environments. It is a clear objective to improve conditions for the research and innovation environments and enable them to position themselves internationally as both partners and competitors,” says Simen Ensby, Director for International Cooperation at the Research Council.
Source: Research Council of Norway