How to build a successful NORIA?

The Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE) programme should be extended as a supranational tool for research policy in the Nordic Research and Innovation Area (NORIA), says Merle Jacob at the University of Oslo (UiO).
Vision and realism
Merle Jacob is director of the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture at UiO. In a feature article in the journal Forskningspolitikk (1/07) he criticizes NORIA and its ambitious supranational goals. NORIA aims to coordinate collaboration between research, industry and public administration on a Nordic level, but Jacob characterizes this as an unrealistic goal. Even though he identifies at least one well functioning programme in today’s NORIA: the NordForsk programme Nordic Centres of Excellence.

NORIA bottom-up
According to Jacob, the research and industry partners doubt the realism of the NORIA vision. He believes this is due to the poor inclusion of these interest groups in the process of organising and defining NORIA. Successful collaboration between research and industry partners depends on at least two important factors: The partnership must be built bottom-up; and projects must be directed towards clearly defined target groups. In Jacob’s opinion NORIA was more or less initiated and organised by politicians and bureaucrats alone, and the loose coordination structure lacks distinct target groups.

Merle Jacob hopes to see a future NORIA in which research and industry partners have a greater deal of say when the agenda is set. Moreover NORIA should aim to develop activities and programmes that can help facilitate the balance between on the one hand funding excellence, and on the other hand securing diversity in research. The Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE) is a programme concept of this type: “A larger share of NORIA’s resources should be channelled into similar projects”, Jacob states.

The NCoE programme combines top-down decisions on thematic priorities with bottom-up, researcher based, initiatives and project specifications. Subject and scope of each programme are decided on a political level, by the NordForsk board. Then a public call is announced, and the programme’s Centres of Excellence are selected for a five-year period based on open competition; the most important selection criterion being excellent scientific quality. Read more about NCoE.