How a Nordic research programme is formed

Most of NordForsk’s activities are organised under programmes for cooperation on research and research infrastructure. Here is how our programmes come to be and are carried out.

Added value

NordForsk launches and coordinates research programmes in fields where the Nordic countries see there is added value in cooperation. Although each Nordic country is small on its own, joint programmes and projects enable researchers to work together in larger groups, which yields better research results on the basis of a broader foundation while helping to establish lasting networks and research groups.

The first step is to identify an important topic that is suitable for research activities at the Nordic level, and which NordForsk can help to coordinate. Topics may have their origin in politically-based discussions and decisions, or in input from a wide array of actors in the research sector and society at large on areas where more knowledge is needed.

Preliminary study

Once a topic or field is deemed as having major potential to generate Nordic added value, a preliminary study is launched to provide recommendations for a joint Nordic research initiative. A working group comprising experts in the relevant area as well as country representatives is appointed. The working group’s findings are often presented in a report or policy paper outlining opportunities and recommendations.


The NordForsk Board decides if and when to initiate negotiations with the national funding institutions of the five countries. During this process, more details emerge about the thematic area of the programme and the countries that will be contributing funding. A minimum of three countries must agree to participate in order for the programme to be approved. NordForsk will also contribute funding to the programme, and other organisations under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers will often do so as well. The programme must also attain a minimum funding volume in order to justify its start-up and administration. The various contributions are paid out to NordForsk, which administers the entire budget, typically in the form of a real common pot.

Once NordForsk and the participating countries have reached an agreement, a programme committee is appointed with members from all the programme’s funding bodies. The committee serves for the duration of the programme period and assists NordForsk in designing and implementing the programme and programme content and in following up programme activities. This is important for ensuring that the programme is adequately aligned with national priorities and is well coordinated with national initiatives.

Funding announcements

Funding under Nordic research programmes is always announced in open calls for proposals so that all relevant researchers have the opportunity to apply. Project proposals must normally involve the participation of researchers from at least three Nordic countries to be eligible for funding. Applications are evaluated by experts in the field in question (peer reviewers). The programme committee then prepares a recommendation based on the set of projects judged as best able to achieve the programme objectives. The NordForsk Board takes the final decision regarding which projects to award funding.

The research activities start

Normally a Nordic research programme has a timeframe of at least five years. Projects work independently and with other projects to generate new knowledge. At the same time, new forms of cooperation and networks among researchers in the Nordic countries are established, often leading to additional results in the long term. The programmes also train new researchers, who then have access to the entire Nordic region for educational and work opportunities.


Nordic research programmes lead to the development and dissemination of new knowledge, methods, tools and research infrastructure (including databases and registries). New cooperation between researchers and research groups across national borders is launched. Research findings, innovations and applications of new knowledge bring benefits to the Nordic region as a whole.