2 Objectives for the next plan period
2.1 About the objectives
The overarching objectives for the long-term plan for research and higher education are firmly established:
enhancing competitiveness and innovation capacity
tackling major social challenges
developing research communities of outstanding quality
The objectives apply for the entire plan period and for all subject areas, including the five long-term priorities (Seas and oceans; Climate, the environment and clean energy; Public sector renewal and better public services; Enabling and industrial technologies; Public security and social cohesion in a globalised world).
2.2 Enhancing competitiveness and innovation capacity
It is the Government’s ambition to make Norway one of the most innovative countries in Europe. Like other high-cost countries, Norway’s competitive approach must incorporate knowledge as a basis for innovation and higher productivity. It is therefore important to facilitate renewal and restructuring towards an even more knowledge- and research-intensive business sector, and a correspondingly knowledge- and research-intensive public sphere.
Rapid technological development and globalisation have altered many aspects of daily life. Globalisation changes the international division of labour, leading to new opportunities as well as new challenges. It also serves to promote and spread technological innovation.1 Developments in technology change production processes, goods, services, business models, value chains and trade patterns. In future, advanced production processes and increased use of developments in artificial intelligence and robotics, 3D printing, sensor networks and sensor technology, among others, will make it possible to produce goods and services competitively in high-cost countries.2 Furthermore, developments in the bioeconomy and the use of advanced materials and other enabling technologies may create a framework for green business activities and knowledge-based jobs throughout the country.3
To mitigate climate-related and environmental challenges, there must be a restructuring of trade and industry towards a low-emission society and an economy where future value creation is based on effective, sustainable utilisation of both non-renewable and renewable resources. Increased utilisation of green technologies and industrial processes is part of the Sustainable Development Goal for restructuring the business sector to become more sustainable by 2030.4 The Government will maintain a close dialogue with the business sector to create profitable, green jobs based on the industries’ own roadmaps to a low-emission society, and founded on the principles of green competitiveness.5
Restructuring will lead to the emergence of new work tasks, while others will be eliminated. Certain industries in the private sector have changed substantially. Public services are also encountering new opportunities as well as a greater demand for restructuring and innovation. In a labour market that increasingly requires higher skills and encompasses fewer routine jobs, there will be a need for professionals who exercise critical thinking, ethical reflection and creative problem solving.6 Through their undergraduate education and continuing and further education programmes, the universities and university colleges have a key role to play in equipping employees for a working life under constant restructuring.
The ability and willingness to utilise new technology are crucial to succeed in increasing productivity and value creation.7 This calls for a high level of knowledge and competence in the workforce and an adequate flow of knowledge between academia and actors in working life and industry. Thus, it will become more and more important to invest in knowledge and competence in order to take advantage of the potential for value creation of new technology, facilitate the restructuring towards a greener business sector and prevent technological changes from creating and amplifying social inequality.
The Government will:
encourage increased research and development in the private and public sectors in order to promote restructuring towards a greener economy, enhance competitiveness and strengthen innovation capacity;
facilitate new, research-based business activities and better interaction between academia and the private and public sectors;
lay the foundation for increased digitalisation and use of new technology.
2.3 Resolving major societal challenges
The 2030 Agenda views the environment, economy and social development as interconnected and thus promotes a better overall understanding of some of today’s major societal challenges. Knowledge will be required to meet these challenges, whether they involve climate and the environment, access to food and energy, technology shifts or demographic changes such as a rising elderly population or increased migration. Common to all of them is that they are complex and transcend disciplinary, sectoral and national boundaries, and the solutions must be equally expansive. The brightest minds, independent of disciplinary, sectoral or national background, must join forces to produce the knowledge that is needed. Global trends will alter future patterns of consumption in Norway and the rest of the world, which will have an impact on the environment and climate. Relevant trends include changes in demographics, economic growth, production and trade patterns, technological advances, changes in international power constellations and cooperative relations, migration, degradation of ecosystems and climate change. The middle class, which consumes the most resources and is exerting the greatest strain on the environment, will climb to five billion people from today’s two billion.
The consumption of materials has grown tenfold since 1900, and it could double again by 2030. The global demand for energy and water is expected to rise between 30 and 40 per cent over the next 20 years. Similarly, the current overall demand for food, feed and fibres is expected to increase by 60 per cent by 2050, while the average area of cultivated land per person may be reduced by 1.5 per cent per year.8 A growing lack of resources in other parts of the world as a result of these trends could have major ramifications, also for Norway.
There is a need for research that can provide better insight into global development trends, both to deal with national challenges and to contribute constructively globally. A knowledge-based approach to societal challenges opens up opportunities for the business sector to develop new, future-oriented activities.
Norway will take part in this global knowledge effort, and is well-equipped to help to resolve major, global societal challenges in many areas. For example, there are strong agricultural science groups that contribute significantly to international knowledge-building on food security, climate scientists who participate in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a medical science community that is part of the global effort to develop vaccines.
Some challenges may be shared by a limited group of countries, such as how to maintain a sustainable welfare state with high employment in conjunction with an ageing population. This issue is particularly relevant for Norway and other wealthy countries with well-developed welfare schemes, whereas many developing countries have a young population and are instead struggling with problems related to poverty and inequality and the introduction of universal welfare programmes. Furthermore, while the pace of the technology shifts may differ in various parts of the world, the shifts affect everyone and entail a number of ethical issues that have different implications for different groups and stakeholders.
Most of today’s societal challenges have their origin in human activity. In order to find solutions, it is therefore necessary to gain insight into the perceptions of reality and motives that underly the actions of the various stakeholders. In its white paper on the humanities, the Government states that the humanities are underutilised as a resource and sets out clear expectations for incorporating humanities perspectives, and humanities scholars and researchers, more widely into activities to deal with major societal challenges.9
During the next plan period, the Government believes it is particularly important to focus efforts on implementing the shift towards a greener society and achieving a sustainable welfare state.
The Government will:
invest in education, research and technology development that helps reach the climate and environmental targets and promotes the shift to a greener society;
facilitate research and innovation to enhance quality and effectiveness in the public sector;
increase knowledge on how to reduce the number of those who fall outside working life and keep more people working longer, and shed light on challenges related to migration and an ageing population.
2.4 Developing academic and research communities of outstanding quality
Excellent academic and research communities develop new knowledge, new insight and new solutions. They provide high-quality education and disseminate the results of research and development to promote the application of knowledge. Over time, there has been steady, positive development in the most important indicators for both higher education and research.10 The best of Norwegian higher education and research can hold their own in international comparisons, and there are many examples of world-class academic and research groups.
The Norwegian authorities, education and research institutions and academic and research communities have directed efforts over many years towards enhancing quality in research and higher education. The last twenty years have seen considerable changes. Universities, university colleges and research institutes have taken strategic, targeted steps to expand and accommodate their top education and research groups and to recruit outstanding researchers externally.
While there is much that is moving in the right direction, there is a potential to achieve more. Norway still has relatively few academic and research groups of international excellence in relation to how much the country invests in research and higher education. The quality of higher education must be further enhanced. There must be greater recruitment of the best talents, and the average age of doctoral students must be brought down. There is still a long way to go in fully utilising the potential of the population as a whole, both in terms of diversity and in terms of gender balance in senior academic positions. It is possible to achieve even greater openness in research, which will enhance quality and make it easier for the business sector and public stakeholders to make use of the knowledge obtained. And there are many opportunities to encourage increased, closer international cooperation.
The Government will continue its efforts to enhance the quality of higher education and research and lay the foundation for developing additional world-leading academic and research groups in Norway.
The Government will:
focus on young talents to build the excellent academic and research groups of the future;
lay a foundation to enable Norwegian academic and research groups to cooperate with and be part of the best international groups;
work to ensure that students, lecturers and researchers have access to world-class scientific equipment and infrastructure;
promote increased diversity, greater openness and high ethical standards in research and education.
Meld. St. 29 (2016–2017) Long-Term Perspectives on the Norwegian Economy 2017
Meld. St. 27 (2016–2017) A greener, smarter and more innovative industry
Familiar resources – undreamt of possibilities – The Government's Bioeconomy Strategy. 2016
Sustainable Development Goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
Better growth, lower emissions – The Government's strategy for green competitiveness. 2017
Meld. St. 16 (2016–2017) Quality Culture in Higher Education
Official Norwegian Reports 2015: 1 Produktivitet – Grunnlag for vekst og velferd [Productivity – Foundation for growth and prosperity]
European Environment Agency report SOER2015, Global Megatrends, https://www.eea.europe.the eu/publications/global-megatrends-assessment-extended-background-analysis
Meld. St. 25 (2016–2017) The Humanities in Norway
For a broader review of the status of Norwegian higher education and research, please see Tilstandsrapport for høyere utdanning 2018 [Status Report for Higher Education 2018], Forskningsbarometeret 2018 [Research Barometer 2018] and Indikatorrapporten 2018[The Norwegian research and innovation system: Statistics and indicators 2018].