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The Research Council of Norway's Large-scale Programmes Functional Genomics (FUGE) and Nanotechnology and New Materials (NANOMAT) are a success, according to the recently-concluded external evaluations of the two programmes.
"The evaluations show that the programmes have given a significant boost to research in the fields of biotechnology and nano and materials technology," says Division Director Anne Kjersti Fahlvik at the Research Council of Norway.
Both fields were still young and not fully developed when the two Large-scale Programmes were launched in 2002.
The evaluations were conducted by the Danish consulting company DAMVAD and the international consulting company Econ Pöyry in collaboration with experts from each of the two technology areas and experts on funding instrument evaluation.
Competence-building and social challenges
The evaluation reports conclude that both research programmes have achieved their primary objective of building research competence. The reports also emphasise that the programmes have successfully adapted to changes in research policy priorities during the programme period.
Over the nearly 10 years in which they have existed, the programmes have evolved from basic research programmes into broader-based initiatives in which relevance and benefit to industry and society also comprise key areas of focus.
"The increased emphasis on viewing research in these fields in the context of major social challenges provides an excellent point of departure for the next phase of activities in these areas," says Ms Fahlvik.
Ties to industry
According to the reports, the NANOMAT programme has been the most successful in forging links to established industry, while the FUGE programme has played an important role in the creation of new companies.
Nevertheless, the direct effect of these programmes on the industrial sector has been limited, and the new initiatives will need to include efforts to further strengthen ties between the research community and industry.
"The focus on the needs of industry emerged late in the programme period, and better use can be made of the interplay between industry and the research community. There is considerable room for development here," asserts Ms Fahlvik.
Have generated value added
Both programmes have taken strategic steps when it comes to development of funding instruments, project follow-up, and dissemination and dialogue activities.
The evaluation of the FUGE programme points out that the programme has established nine technology platforms and a significant number of regional nodes in the course of the programme period. These have helped to raise the level of the research and have generated national research networks with extensive knowledge production that is widely published.
The evaluation of the NANOMAT programme points out that increased coordination and better distribution of tasks at the national level have served to boost competence, giving Norwegian research in this field a competitive edge internationally in several areas. Nationally coordinated projects have been critical here.
Internationalisation, industrial development and social perspectives
The most important recommendation for future initiatives in both fields is to maintain continuity and keep the momentum. The main focus should still be on basic research and internationalisation, but research activities should be conducted in closer interaction with innovation and industrial development activities.
The reports conclude that both programmes have promoted socially acceptable technology development by addressing ethical, legal and social aspects (ELSA) and issues related to health, safety and the work environment (HSE), as well as by engaging in extensive communication and dissemination activities. The reports recommend that future programmes incorporate ELSA and HSE-related research questions to an even greater extent.
New initiatives in the works
The Research Council has recently completed analyses of the state-of-the-art for new initiatives on biotechnology and nanotechnology and new materials. The Executive Board of the Research Council has approved the launch of the new programmes in 2012.
"We will follow up the conclusions and recommendations of the evaluation reports when designing the new programmes," concludes Ms Fahlvik.
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