Education Across Borders

Increasing engagement in Nordic research funding collaboration

“Nordic research funders and universities have demonstrated increasing interest in recent years and, if we look ahead, I think collaborations born of Open Invitation will bring substantial Nordic added value,” says Lars Kloo, who serves as Secretary General for Natural and Engineering Sciences at the Swedish Research Council.

NordForsk’s role as a platform for cooperation between Nordic national research funding agencies has grown in recent years, in part due to Open Invitation, which allows national research funding organisations to take a more active role in NordForsk agenda-setting. Via Open Invitation, research funding agencies can propose new Nordic research programmes or extensions of existing programmes.

Increased Nordic involvement
“It is important that the major Nordic funders feel they are part of the process and able to influence content,” says Lars Kloo. “NordForsk has developed a very good platform with that in mind.”

The Nordic research programmes are administered by NordForsk but are largely steered by the national research funding agencies. At least two thirds of the funding for a joint Nordic research programme comes from national research funding organisations representing at least three Nordic countries. NordForsk provides up to one third of the programme funding.

“Open Invitation can be adapted for different purposes, such as for infrastructure or for interdisciplinary research. There is no way to apply the same model to every initiative, but Open Invitation is a flexible mechanism and a good starting point for collaboration,” says Dr Kloo.

Part of the reason that national research funding organisations have become more involved in Nordic cooperation, Lars Kloo believes, is the close contact established between NordForsk and the directors of the major Nordic research funding organisations. He points to additional Nordic research funders, such as sector-oriented authorities and private foundations, as potential collaborators.

Nordic added value
NordForsk’s purpose is to facilitate collaboration that generates Nordic added value in research and research infrastructure.

“One general form of added value that comes from Nordic cooperation is scale,” says the new board chair. “It gives us a bigger base – 27 million Nordic residents carry more weight than each Nordic country on its own.”

He cites France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which each have 50 million to 80 million inhabitants and therefore enjoy critical mass for research. This allows them to publish in their own languages, to name one advantage. Other examples of Nordic added value are cost effectiveness and the ability to share data, infrastructure and resources across national borders. The Nordic networks established between researchers and institutions across the different countries, and the expertise and knowledge they share as a result, represent another aspect of Nordic added value.

Researchers are like detectives
Beyond his duties with the Swedish Research Council, Lars Kloo is an active researcher and Professor of Applied Physical Chemistry at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. He would like NordForsk to think like an inquisitive researcher and explore the new opportunities made possible by Open Invitation and collaborations with new partners.

“Curiosity is practically a lifestyle, an attitude of wanting to understand what’s happening and why. Unfortunately, many people lose their natural curiosity in their teens, but there are still a few of us who never stop wondering,” Dr Kloo says with a laugh.

Something he would like NordForsk to explore in the next few years is research collaboration outside the Nordic region, where he sees major opportunities. Today, NordForsk collaborates with national research funding organisations in the Netherlands and the UK under the Education for Tomorrow programme and the Joint Nordic-UK research programme on Migration and Integration. A new collaboration has recently been initiated with Japan.

“When we work together, everyone wins,” says Lars Kloo.