Towards a new Framework Programme – context, opportunities and challenges

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Speech by Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen on 19 April in Oslo at the opening of the conference "Perspectives and Priorities for the EU's next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9)".

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this important event. Norway has always attached great importance to the EU framework programmes for research, which now also include innovation.  

We have participated actively in the dialogue on their design and in projects they have generated. We are now actively contributing to the discussions on the next EU framework programme, for the period after Horizon 2020.   

(The EU after Rome and in the light of brexit)

Europe is going through profound changes. The UK is leaving the EU. The 27 remaining member states are all having to think hard about the future. So are we. We must redefine our relations with the UK. And we must look at how we can improve European cooperation in the years to come.

The British withdrawal from the EU will be a complicated process, to put it mildly. This reflects how integrated European countries have become. And it reminds us of the advantages of being part of the internal market. Not only from the point of view of promoting trade and investment, but also in terms of facilitating cooperation in a broad range of areas. I am convinced that having no deal between the UK and the EU would be a bad deal for all of us.  

Norway participates fully in the internal market through the EEA Agreement, and we attach importance to protecting its integrity.  

(The importance of participation in the EU programme for research and innovation)

I believe that education, research, and innovation are key to meeting the challenges Europe is facing today.

Challenges in areas such as green technologies and healthy oceans are increasing and they are too big for any one country to tackle alone.  

More than ever, we need to pool our resources, join forces and remove the barriers that hinder cooperation. More than ever, we need to ensure that Europe really operates as a 'single market for knowledge'. And more than ever, we need to develop arenas where the European knowledge community can work together to find innovative solutions.  

As the challenges we face are global, we also need to take a global perspective.

Norway participates extensively in European cooperation. This is because we recognise that the future of Norway and the future of the EU are interdependent, and we need to find joint solutions.  

Norway cannot compete when it comes to low wages, and will not accept substandard working conditions. Our knowledge, competence and innovation give us important competitive advantages, and will enable us to continue to enjoy a high standard of living.  

Norway is undergoing an extensive process of transition and European cooperation plays a vital role in this context. Research and innovation are therefore among the Government's main priorities, both in domestic policy and in European policy.

That is why we have a strategy for cooperation with the EU on research and innovation through Horizon 2020 – the biggest innovation and research programme in the world.  

That is also why innovation and research has been, and still is, one of the key sectors in the EEA and Norway Grants scheme. Thanks to the EEA and Norway Grants, new research networks have been created and institutional cooperation with the beneficiary countries has been strengthened.  

(The EEA Agreement)

The EEA Agreement is the main pillar of Norway's cooperation with the rest of Europe. For more than 20 years, it has facilitated extensive cooperation between Norway and the EU.  

When we talk about the EEA, the legal aspects are often highlighted. But to my mind, the EEA Agreement is so much more.  

Norway’s participation in EU programmes opens doors to cooperation across borders. Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, which involve thousands of students and schools, are important examples. These programmes represent important opportunities, which we constantly seek to make the most of.  

Our participation in EU programmes has allowed Norwegian researchers to develop partnerships with outstanding research groups both inside and outside Europe. These research partnerships and networks are of great value – not only for the researchers and knowledge institutions involved – but also for Norway as a whole.

(Mobilisation)

One important aspect of Horizon 2020 is that it encourages research and innovation projects that involve end users, which are often governmental agencies. In these projects, the academic community, industry and public authorities often need to work closely together to succeed.  

When I visited the Stavanger region in March, I had the opportunity to learn about one particular Horizon 2020 project which seeks to develop innovative city solutions in energy, mobility and ICT. I was impressed by the engagement and enthusiasm I saw.  

The three-point project is called ‘Triangulum’, and its partners are the three flagship cities of Stavanger, Manchester and Eindhoven.

It was made clear to me that the success of the project was due to its excellent and well-functioning local networks. In addition, the project inspired the partners ‘to do more together’ – as was demonstrated at the Smart City Conference Nordic Edge Expo.

One of the conclusions from my meeting with county-level political and administrative leaders on 17 March was that there is a clear need for closer cooperation in order to mobilise engagement in the new EU programme at local level.  

It is important not only to address what our priorities should be in the new programme, but also how we can work together more closely and more effectively. In some regions, research institutions have to take the lead, in others industrial clusters will be at the forefront, but in my view, local authorities should also play a leading role.

The benefits of having strong local networks can be made even greater by closer cooperation across regions in Europe and more innovative public procurement. We should bear in mind that 37 % of the budgets at county and municipal level are used on procurement.  

Urban sustainability is an important theme, but of course we have to promote sustainability across the board. On my visit in February to the Norwegian company Borregaard, which operates the world's most advanced biorefinery, I had the chance to see how a company has successfully managed to combine an emphasis on sustainability and a  green shift based on timber, with a focus on productivity and active use of EU research funding. In 2015, 18 % of their products were new and not available just five years ago.

Horizon 2020 is not only for big companies. Hafenstrom, a small company in Svolvær, received support for a project on “the internet of things”, and land-based electricity for ships and ports.  

The Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and actors at local level all play a key role. We must make good use of them, and make sure that we make the most of the opportunities available under the EU framework programme.   

(Norwegian Contact Office for Research, Innovation and Education –NorCore)

Our contact with Brussels is important. During my visits to the newly established NorCore office in Brussels and the Secretariat for the Joint Programming Initiative on Oceans in January, I was pleased to see the high level of engagement and the potential for putting Norwegian issues on the agenda, and not least for finding solutions through European cooperation.

The message I took away from the meetings was that the earlier we engage in dialogue, the better our chances of success.  

(To sum up)

As an EEA EFTA state with more than 25 years of participation in the EU framework programmes, Norway has a strong interest in contributing to the process leading up to the next framework programme.  

We have already provided input, and we have emphasised that the next programme should build on Horizon 2020, but should have a much stronger focus on a ‘green shift’ and renewal in our societies and economies. Key areas should be green innovation and competitiveness, digitalisation, and blue growth.

I hope we will have a fruitful conference here today that will elaborate on these and other priorities that we should include next time we provide input.  

We need to work closely together, establish good networks and make sure that the next framework programme is able to address the challenges of tomorrow.