These details and more are presented in a new overview of Nordic countries’ funding of research related to COVID-19. The report, compiled by NordForsk in the period February–April 2021, encompasses both ongoing and planned initiatives from public as well as private research funders in the Nordic region.
“This report shows that the Nordic research funders are capable of reacting quickly to a situation that demands rapid production of new knowledge to address major societal challenges,” says Arne Flåøyen, Director of NordForsk.
“The question is whether the system has been sufficiently able to conduct good quality assurance of all these activities planned within such a short time span,” Flåøyen adds.
Flåøyen also points to the opportunity for better coordination:
“The vast majority of these research activities now underway are being carried out within just one country each. I believe it would have been advantageous to coordinate more activities across the Nordic region and establish more Nordic-wide projects. That would make it easier to cooperate on using data from multiple countries, as well as raise the quality of the research.”
Most funding for medical research
Not surprisingly, fully 58 per cent of the projects are in the realm of medicine and health. A total of NOK 1.9 billion has been allocated for research of this type. The next largest category is the social sciences, with 23 per cent of projects and NOK 751 million, followed by innovation (10 per cent, NOK 319 million).
Large differences by nation
The Nordic countries differ greatly in how much and what type of research they are funding.
Sweden has allocated NOK 1.552 billion for COVID-19 research, which is 47 per cent of the total NOK 3.3 billion allocated or earmarked for COVID-19 research. Finland has allocated NOK 608 million (19 per cent), Denmark NOK 522 million (16 per cent), Norway NOK 506 million (15 per cent), Iceland NOK 8 million and the Faroe Islands NOK 4 million, while NordForsk and other Nordic funders have contributed NOK 68 million, or 2 per cent.
In Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, medicine and health projects have received the most funding. This is particularly true of Sweden and Iceland, where 80 and 82 percent, respectively, of funding is for this area, with Denmark at 51 per cent.
Norway and Finland, on the other hand, have funded mostly social science research. In Norway this funding comprises 67 per cent of its total research related to COVID-19, while 44 per cent of funding in Finland goes to this type of research. Here the contrast to Sweden and Denmark is stark: 14 per cent of the Danish funding is social science-related, and in Sweden just 4 per cent.