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Research and Development in the Nordic countries: how to stay at the top

The world envies the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) for appearing at the top of almost every global and, certainly, European league table. But the Nordics worry about being able to keep their leading position in the field of research & development (R&D). A recent report for the Nordic Council of Ministers, “Building Nordic strength through more open R&D funding”, is trying to point the way. The report departs from the assumption that the relevance and success of research, and its application in the form of innovation, is limited by the size of a country. Since the Nordic countries are all small (in population terms), it looks into ways of reaching a critical mass by working more closely together. The ways proposed display an admiration for the EU’s successful coordination of its member states’ research policies. The Nordic countries should likewise develop a “joined up research and innovation policy”, and through it the “Nordic Research and innovation Area” (NORIA). Since the authors do not believe that the (desirable) opening up of national research programmes to applicants from the other Nordic countries is politically feasible, they suggest as more realistic options
  • joint needs analysis and planning among funders and other stakeholders in the region;
  • parallel (though separate) calls for proposals; and
  • joint calls for proposals financed from a ‘virtual common pot’.
At the level of the Nordic Council of Ministers (i.e. at above-nation-state level), they propose closer collaboration between the two Nordic research institutions NordForsk and NICe, as well as a pilot programme to encourage grassroots initiatives. Building Nordic strength through more open R&D funding