Speech/statement | Date: 22/09/2015 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Vidar Helgesen's speech at the opening of the Brussels Offices of NTNU, University of Bergen an SINTEF on 22 September 2015.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure be here, and it is a great honour to have been invited to open these new Brussels Offices of NTNU, SINTEF and the University of Bergen.
I would like to commend these three institutions for taking this initiative. I must admit, however, that I was not surprised when I first heard about it. These institutions are at the forefront when it comes to international cooperation. They know that pooling resources and developing networks is the key to moving forward. And they know how important it is to play an active role on the European stage.
‘Knowledge is power’. In Europe, this is now probably truer than ever. Europe is beginning to recover from the economic crisis, but many challenges remain. Challenges for our workplaces and for achieving economic prosperity. Challenges for society and our ability to live together. Challenges for our security. And I believe that education and research – and not least, cooperation within the fields of education and research – will be vital if Europe is to succeed in responding to these challenges.
More than ever, we need to pool our efforts 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. These offices here in Brussels are an important contribution in this respect.
Norway participate extensively in European cooperation. We do so because the future of Norway cannot be separated from the future of the EU. And because we need to find joint solutions to shared challenges.
The EEA Agreement is the mainstay of Norway’s cooperation with the rest of Europe. For more than 20 years, it has facilitated extensive cooperation between Norway and the EU. At the same time, it has facilitated extensive ‘Europeanisation’ of Norway – of our legal order, our political life, our economy, our society – and last but not least, our academia.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, thousands of Norwegians have taken part in research and education exchanges and in a wide range of cooperation projects in Europe.
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.
Norway will never be able to offer the cheapest labour, so knowledge is our most important competitive advantage. And this is increasingly the case. As you may be aware, Norway is undergoing an extensive process of transition. This means that we are becoming more similar to the EU countries, we are no longer the ‘odd man’ in Europe. This also means that we are more dependent on European cooperation, not least in the areas of research and innovation.
That is why research and innovation are 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. And that is why we are taking part in and contributing extensively to 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 has been strengthened – including ties with the research community here in Brussels.
For the period 2009–14 we have provided more than 129 million euros in grant support to 230 research institutions, and participated in 172 research projects involving more than 1 500 researchers in different countries.
Promoting research cooperation will continue to be a priority for the EEA and Norway Grants in the new seven-year financing period, which will be launched soon. In the new financing period, we will have the added advantage of being able to build on the results achieved in the previous period.
We would also like to strengthen the promotion of research cooperation in the context of innovation and growth.
Working to create more synergies between the EEA and Norway Grants and Horizon 2020 is a natural objective, as this will benefit the European Research Area. This includes strengthening ties with the research community in Brussels – just as you are doing here today.
I am quite sure that these offices will be part of our ‘team Europe’ here in Brussels, and that they will help us to realise the Government’s ambition of an active and knowledge-based European policy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Some people are pessimistic about the future of Europe. They point to the shifting power structures at the global level and the strong, emerging economies in other parts of the world, such as the Asian tigers. But I do not share their pessimism about the future of Europe.
Europe has tremendous potential in a range of areas, as well as a culture of innovation, a highly-educated population, and strong educational institutions – like the ones represented here today. And, not least, our instinct as Europeans is to find ways of cooperating.
No one can solve the issue of climate change alone. No one can solve the issue of energy security alone. No one can find a cure for Alzheimers alone (at least, not without the help of a certain Norwegian couple!) We need platforms and arenas for cooperation. I am proud and happy that NTNU, SINTEF and the University of Bergen have established exactly the kind of platform we need here in Brussels.
I am bound to say a few words about the next speaker, even if I am not going to introduce him. I was very privileged to visit NTNU in November last year, and to be able to hear a presentation by our outstanding researchers, Professors May-Britt and Edvard Moser, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2014. They have produced much innovation, they have produced much high quality research, and they have also been able to produce an awareness in Norway that there are other Nobel prizes than the Nobel Peace prize.
I look forward to hearing Edvard Moser speak now about their experience of international cooperation and the European framework programme.
Finally, I wish the Brussels Offices every success, and hereby declare the Offices open.