NORDERA – Lessons learned from the Nordic cooperation

01.12.2010
The NORDERA conference took place at Hotel Metropole in Brussels last week. Some 120 participants from the European Commission, the Nordic institutions and the member states gathered to discuss what Europe can learn from the Nordic R&I experiences.
Does the EU have anything to gain from the Nordic region’s experiences with research and innovation? This is one of the key issues discussed by participants from a number of different institutions and countries in Europe both in plenary and parallel sessions last Thursday.

European challenges
Anneli Pauli, Deputy Director General for DG Research, pointed to challenges for the European countries concerning
research and research investments: Over 75% of global research investment is made outside the EU. Our share is decreasing due to new global players in science and technology. - Europe must invest more and better while opening up to the world, said Pauli.

Europe needs at least one million more researchers. Universities need reforms and closer links with business. Simplification of instruments and funding schemes is a way in which to meet the needs. Others are security and pension for mobile researchers, attractive employment and working conditions, in addition to researchers training.

Good intentions are not enough
Gard Titlestad, Head of Department, Nordic Council of Ministers, pointed to the challenge in Europe and the Nordic region that good will and little money are not enough. Good incentives and joint initiatives are necessary to solve Grand Challenges. All countries in Europe need to cooperate, and the Nordic region may stand out as a building block for cooperation.

- The Nordic region is the world’s 10th largest economy. It is a research and innovation area - and as such a true part of ERA. The Nordic region has a leading educational role in Europe and promotes free movement of knowledge.

Cooperation is a quality driver
NordForsk Director Gunnel Gustafsson described Grand Challenge responding research and the areas where global issues knock on our doors. These challenges may come from nature, from business or from social conditions. – The sense of urgency caused by the challenges tells us that we can no longer afford to do the same things separately. If we are serious about research and innovation, we must think about division of labor, said Gustafsson.

Some have fears that the Grand Challenge responding research will take resources away from basic research, but this should not be the case.

No borders
- There are no borders in research, continued Riitta Mustonen, Vice president of the Academy of Finland. – Young scientist can only develop through mobility and international cooperation. But it is important to note that there are different types of mobility. In the age of globalisation and new technology, mobility is no longer restricted to physical or long term mobility.

- Conflicts of culture and communication problems are the main challenges for cooperation and mobility between academia and industry, stated Martin Hynes, Director of the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology. He argues that Ireland has good experiences with developing this cooperation on the basis of a cluster models.

Trust, flexibility and bottom-up processes
Mark Boden, JRC Action Leader within the Knowledge for Growth Unit at the IPTS, pointed to trust, cultural proximity, flexibility and good governance as possible reasons for the Nordic successes with joint funding and common pot. The Top-level Research Initiative is a good example in this sense.

While the draft report emphasised that the achievements on common research infrastructure in the Nordic region are rather weak, Lars Börjesson, Professor at Chalmers University, argued that the Nordic region is stronger in this area than often referred to. He mentioned examples of both Nordic and European installations located in the Nordic region, such as the ESS in Lund, Sweden. He believes there is a great potential for developing the Nordic cooperation further.

The importance of linking research and innovation
Ivar H. Kristensen, Managing Director of Nordic Innovation Centre, argued that a broad approach to innovation is
needed.

- While there are many similarities among the Nordic countries, it is interesting to note that the research and innovation policies are still very different, Kristin Oxley, adviser at the Research Council of Norway, pointed out. Linking research and innovation is one of the many challenges that are met in different ways in the various Nordic countries.

Fredrik Melander, Senior adviser in the Nordic Council of Ministers, argued that there is no region with higher potential for a close cooperation between research and innovation, but that there are still few good examples.

When does collaboration add value?
So when is it a good idea to go Nordic? When does collaboration add value? Hans Borchgrevink, Special Adviser at the Research Council of Norway argued that instead of talking about Nordic added value, we should talk about the added value of Nordic cooperation, since there is no added value in the cooperation itself. When should we collaborate? How do we share resources and costs? How do we organise, coordinate, and last but not least – how do we set priorities?

The different discussions during the conference illustrated a wide range of perspectives. - This is exactly what we hoped would be the result and we will do our best to incorporate these aspects in the final report, says Pernille Rieker, conference organiser and NORDERA project leader.

The results of the research carried out by the NORDERA project, presented in a draft report, constituted the base for the conference discussions. Isi Saragossi, Director for Directorate C – European Research Area: Knowledge-based economy, DG ENTR. characterised the report as open and frank, commending the willingness to look at the failures as well as the strengths of the Nordic region’s research cooperation.

The viewpoints and perspectives that came up during the conference will be reflected in the final report, which will be finalised in December.

Read more about NORDERA here

Photos by Terje Heiestad

Leading photo: Carlo Rizzuto, Ivar H. Kristensen, and Mark Boden in the panel discussion
Photo nr. 2: Anneli Pauli
Photo nr. 3: Gard Titlestad, Gunnel Gustafsson and Carlo Rizzuto in the panel discussion.
Photo nr. 4: Gunnel Gustafsson
Photo nr. 5: Riitta Mustonen
Photo nr. 6: Carlo Rizzuto, Ivar H. Kristensen, Mark Boden, and Riitta Mustonen
Photo nr. 7: Lars Börjesson og Riitta Mustonen
Photo nr. 8: Ivar H. Kristensen
Photo nr. 9: Quentin Cooper, British science communicator known from BBC, chaired the NORDERA conference.
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