Meld. St. 5 (2022–2023)

Long-term plan for research and higher education 2023–2032

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Part 1
Objectives and priorities

1 The Government’s policy for research and higher education

1.1 The Government’s ambitions

The Government’s objective is a democratic, sustainable society with high value creation, equitable distribution, a high degree of trust among the population and good public services all over Norway. Society should be based on a sound security policy. Participation in education and working life are the keys to fairer distribution, less exclusion, stronger civic engagement and personal liberation. Climate and nature considerations shall underlie all policies.

The Stoltenberg II Government took the initiative for the first long-term plan for research and higher education. The present long-term plan, the third of its kind, is published under circumstances that are very different from those surrounding the publication of its two predecessors. In 2022, we have a war in Europe, society is emerging from two years of coronavirus pandemic, there is an energy shortage and high energy prices, and the financial outlook is uncertain. At the same time, the major challenges that have been facing society for some time have become even more urgent. This concerns the climate and environmental crisis in particular, but also the demographic development with an aging population and centralisation trends that lead to a shortage of skills and expertise in parts of the country. These challenges intensify the need to restructure the economy, for example by promoting new business and industry.

In the present situation, the Government considers research and higher education to be more important than ever. We depend on research-based knowledge and expertise to understand and resolve the challenges facing society. The development of new knowledge through research, not least long-term basic research, provides much of the foundation we rely on in our management of challenges and crises. Norway’s participation in international education and research collaboration is an important part of this.

The Government sets out three overall objectives and six thematic priorities for Norwegian research and education during the period 2023–2032.

The overall objectives are:

  • enhancing competitiveness and innovation capacity

  • environmental, social and economic sustainability

  • high quality and accessibility in research and higher education

The thematic priorities are:

  • oceans and coastal areas

  • health

  • climate, the environment and energy

  • enabling and industrial technologies

  • societal security and civil preparedness

  • trust and community

Together, these objectives and priorities cover the areas where the Government sees the greatest need for knowledge development in the years ahead.

It is not enough simply to develop the knowledge, however. It must also be made available and applied in business and industry as well as in the public sector and in civil society. A lot of work remains to be done in that context. There has been an explosive growth in the amount of research published over the past decades, but society’s ability to absorb the knowledge produced has not kept up.1 When society does not adapt as necessary as quickly as we want it to, one of the reasons for this is that research and expertise are not sufficiently closely linked to the areas where they are needed. A recurring point in the present long-term plan is therefore that knowledge must be applied in society.

Among other things, more must be done to enable business and industry to apply research and development, both to increase value creation and to resolve important societal challenges. The business and industry sector in Norway currently invests less in R&D than in many other countries. The Government has therefore announced that it will prepare a strategy for how to increase R&D investments to 2 per cent of GDP by 2030. An important question in this connection will be what the public sector can do to encourage business and industry to invest more in research and research-driven innovation.

In the present long-term plan, the Government is also launching a new policy instrument in the Norwegian research system to promote the practical application of research-based knowledge: missions. Missions are innovative and ambitious projects which combine research and other policy instruments to solve a concrete problem by a deadline. Norway is already taking part in the EU missions, and the Government is now also launching two national missions focusing on areas of priority:

  • sustainable feed

  • including more children and young people in education, employment and society

See Chapter 6 for a more detailed discussion of missions as a policy instrument. The two national missions are described in sections 3.3 and 3.6.

One of the crucial conditions for research-based knowledge being applied in society is that it enjoys a high level of trust. The general level of trust in research has been high in Norway for a long time, and it rose somewhat during the coronavirus pandemic.2 However, we also see trends that give cause for concern. Academic freedom of expression comes under threat in certain contexts from different forms of pressure to conform. Incidents of harassment, threats and attempted cancellation have been reported, and it is sometimes questioned whether research is independent of political and financial interests.3 The widespread use of temporary employment in academic positions, for example, could lead to self-censorship and a tendency to conformity in academic communities.4 We also see that excessive pressure to publish and a quest for sensational findings, when combined with inadequate sharing of data, could result in findings that cannot be reproduced by others.5 Many of these challenges must be tackled by the academic communities themselves. However, trust in research is so vital to society that the Government wants to draw attention to the matter. See Chapter 7 for more details.

1.2 Challenges and trends

The long-term plan has a ten-year time horizon, but is revised every four years to take account of political and societal change. The world has undergone fundamental changes since the first two long-term plans were published. Five areas in which developments have had a major impact on this long-term plan are briefly described below.

1.2.1 Security

Norway should be a safe country to live in. The coronavirus pandemic had major consequences for society as a whole, and Russia’s war against Ukraine and other geopolitical developments, such as the ascent of China, have given rise to lasting changes in the international system, both in terms of security policy and economics. Terrorism, cyberattacks, supply disruptions and serious natural events resulting from climate change are all part of the known range of threats we must continue to protect ourselves against. We must also prepare for unknown and complex threats and crises.

1.2.2 Climate and loss of natural diversity

The climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable, nature is disappearing, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, and biodiversity is under threat. These are all consequences of society’s overconsumption of natural resources. We urgently need to find good and effective solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. We need to ensure an equitable transition with legitimacy among the population to a low-emission society where we preserve ecosystems and natural diversity. Norway is in a unique position to tackle the climate and nature crisis because of the country’s abundant natural resources and other environmental assets both on land and at sea, high level of expertise in technology development and other fields, and excellent preconditions for developing emission-free production industry. We must seize these opportunities.

1.2.3 Energy

Norway is an energy nation. The energy industries – the petroleum and renewable energy industries – are Norway’s biggest industries, as they have been for decades. However, the period since the publication of the last long-term plan has been characterised by more volatile energy markets, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated these challenges. The economic, social and political consequences are significant. Europe is facing a massive energy transition in order to achieve its climate targets, and the EU aims to become independent of gas imports from Russia. Access to clean, reasonably priced renewable energy has long been a competitive advantage for Norwegian industry and a boon to Norwegian households. The Norwegian continental shelf will be a stable long-term supplier of oil and gas to Europe during an extremely demanding time. The development of new industries such as offshore wind power, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage can build on and develop expertise and technology from the already established industries.

1.2.4 Trust

Trust is the glue that holds society together. When people feel that they can trust each other and the authorities, they develop a sense of community, solidarity, good democratic processes and high value creation. If the level of trust drops, major problems will soon ensue. Distrust can easily trigger demands for control measures to be implemented, and considerable resources will then be required to manage the resulting tension and conflict on a continuous basis. The high transaction costs of societies characterised by low levels of trust inhibit engagement, willingness to invest and optimism for the future.6 Over the past decade, we have seen worrying tendencies towards polarisation and declining trust in different parts of the world, including Western countries. The general level of trust is high in Norway, but even here we see a certain tension in some areas.7 The Government’s view is that we should be on our guard against such tension and tendencies towards polarisation being allowed to develop. The key is timely prevention, particularly because declining trust can be self-reinforcing.

1.2.5 Demographics

Falling birth rates in combination with higher life expectancies have gradually changed the composition of the Norwegian population. This development is reflected in many other countries. On average, populations are aging and the proportion who are of working age is falling. We spend longer time on our education, and the period of retirement has grown considerably. On the other hand, the Pension Reform and higher level of education have contributed to elderly people continuing to work for longer than they did a couple of decades ago. This is not enough to make up for the shifting composition of the population and the increase in life expectancy, however.

In combination with other factors, these demographic changes have resulted in a shortage of labour, not least of highly qualified labour.8 A high employment rate is desirable, but a shortage of labour will significantly restrict society’s value creation. This shortage is most keenly felt in rural areas where the recruitment base is smaller, but it will eventually affect more central areas as well.9 The capacity in higher education will have to be adapted to take account of these changes.

In addition to the five trends mentioned here, there is constant development in other important areas of society, not least the economy and technology, where digitalisation is a key feature.

1.3 More about the objectives and priorities

The Government’s assessment of social development, in particular the trends mentioned above, form an important background to the new long-term plan. The long-term plan is also based on extensive rounds of input and a knowledge base prepared by the following, among others: the Research Council of Norway (the Research Council), the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir), the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education – NOKUT, the Sikt – Norwegian Agency for Shared Services in Education and Research, the OECD and several Norwegian research communities. A lot of interdepartmental work has gone into defining the knowledge needs. Several ministries have their own research or knowledge strategies that have been used. Based on the above, the Government has set the new overall objectives and priorities for the long-term plan.

The objectives are set at an overarching level and are intended to be long-term objectives. There is a high degree of continuity from previous long-term plans, but some adjustments have been made. The objective of enhancing competitiveness and innovation capacity is vital in enabling Norway to succeed in the transitions facing us, and has been retained unchanged. This objective encompasses broad generic initiatives and priorities in the field of research and higher education. The previous wording of ‘tackling major societal challenges’ has been replaced by the objective of environmental, social and economic sustainability. The long-term plan thus emphasises the sustainability perspective and also links it to Norway’s international work. The objective of high quality and accessibility in research and higher education still involves an ambition for more ‘academic and research communities of outstanding quality’, which was the wording of the previous objective. More and more Norwegian research communities are holding their own at the international top level and succeeding in international competition. It is the Government’s ambition to increase the number of outstanding academic and research communities, and it will facilitate policy instruments that help them to keep up the good work. The wording of this objective also signals that the Government has ambitions to make improvements across Norwegian and Sami research and higher education. The objectives are discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.

The thematic priorities in the long-term plan are areas where the Government considers it particularly important for Norway to invest in research and higher education in the years ahead. Two of the priorities – climate, the environment and energy and enabling and industrial technologies – have been carried over from the previous plans. However, there have also been some changes. Societal security and civil preparedness and health have come to the fore as areas of particular importance in our time, and they have been made separate priorities. We have added coastal areas so that oceans and coastal areas are seen in conjunction with each other. The priority trust and community is new and represents a continuation of several elements from previous plans, including research and expertise on the public sector, and gears them towards two traditionally strong aspects of Norwegian society that the Government considers it vital to secure through research and higher education in the years ahead. Each of the priorities’ knowledge needs and measures are described in more detail in Chapter 3.

1.4 A well-functioning knowledge system

We depend on a well-functioning research and higher education sector in order to follow up the objectives and priorities in the long-term plan. In Norway, we are lucky enough to live in a society that has stepped up its investments in research, development and higher education over many years of economic growth and with broad political support. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in expenditure on higher education measured as a percentage of GDP, see Figure 1.1, which shows the most recent OECD figures available from 2018.

Figure 1.1 Expenditure on higher education as percentages of GDP during the period 2008–2018.

Figure 1.1 Expenditure on higher education as percentages of GDP during the period 2008–2018.


Figure 1.2 shows that Norway’s level of public funding for research and development (R&D) is among the highest in the world. In 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea was the only country to use more public funds than Norway as a percentage of GDP on research and development.

Figure 1.2 Public R&D funding, including tax incentives for enterprise R&D, 2009 and 2019. Per cent of GDP.

Figure 1.2 Public R&D funding, including tax incentives for enterprise R&D, 2009 and 2019. Per cent of GDP.

1 For Greece and Switzerland, 2010 figures were used as the basis for comparison.


The Government’s view is that Norway should continue a high level of investment in research and higher education. Moreover, intensified efforts are required in several areas. We will have less financial scope of action in the coming years, however, so these investments must be accommodated within the applicable budget. This situation makes it even more crucial than before to get the highest – and best – possible return on society’s investments in the form of research and higher education. This long-term plan therefore places greater emphasis on the workings of the knowledge system than the previous plans did.

Overall responsibility for the Norwegian knowledge system for research and higher education rests with the Ministry of Education and Research.10 The sector principle for research means that each ministry is responsible for research funding within its areas of responsibility, while the Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for coordinating research policy and also has a particular responsibility for basic research and cross-sector research. See Figures 1.3 and 1.4 for an overview of the ministries’ R&D allocations. The Ministry of Education and Research has overall responsibility for higher education and tertiary vocational education (vocational colleges), but which skills are needed in the different sectors of society is also an important consideration in this context.

Figure 1.3 Research and development in the national budget for 2022 by ministry (in NOK million)

Figure 1.3 Research and development in the national budget for 2022 by ministry (in NOK million)

National budget analysis/Statistics Norway

Figure 1.4 Allocations to the Research Council of Norway in 2022 by ministry (in NOK million)

Figure 1.4 Allocations to the Research Council of Norway in 2022 by ministry (in NOK million)

National budget analysis/Statistics Norway

As well as the research and higher education institutions, the Research Council of Norway, HK-dir, NOKUT and Sikt are also key strategic parties to the implementation of the long-term plan. As regards the state universities and university colleges, they have been given new sector objectives that match the objectives set out in the long-term plan. Development agreements between the Ministry of Education and Research and the state universities and university colleges are intended to help the sector to follow up areas that are strategically important when it comes to achieving the sector objectives and the long-term plan’s priorities. See Chapter 5 for details. The institute sector possesses vital expertise on how to resolve the major challenges facing society. This gives the institutes a key role in the follow-up of the plan.

The long-term plan’s overall objectives and thematic priorities tally well with the priorities of the European research collaboration facilitated by the EU. It is important to ensure that the policy instruments in the Norwegian research system are coordinated with those in the European system so that we can get the most out of the resources invested. Research and higher education have both become international activities, and more use should be made of the opportunities for international cooperation, whether through European or Nordic forums, through bilateral collaboration, or under the auspices of international organisations such as the UN or the OECD.

The Norwegian knowledge system has many strong sides, including a sound public funding foundation, but it also has its challenges and some room for improvement. This long-term plan therefore contains a separate Part 2 on the knowledge system in which the Government discusses the need and plans for a new research and higher education policy based on, among other things, the need to ensure that resources are utilised more efficiently. We need to put measures in place to ensure that the R&D system functions better and that dimensioning of higher education takes more account of society’s needs. We also need better policy instruments for applying the knowledge (including missions) and good, resource-efficient data infrastructure and building solutions.

1.5 Follow-up of the new long-term plan

Since there will be less financial room for manoeuvre in public sector budgets in the time ahead, more of the follow-up of the long-term plan than before will have to be done using existing resources and reordering priorities. The Government expects the ministries, policy agencies and publicly funded research and higher education institutions to follow up the objectives and priorities of the long-term plan using the resources available to them at all times, considering their capabilities and areas of responsibility. The Government will consider the need for further follow-up in the annual national budgets.

It has long been a political goal for R&D investment to equal 3 per cent of GDP, and for the public sector to cover 1 per cent, while business and industry should cover 2 per cent. These goals remain unchanged. At the same time, goal achievement should be considered over a longer period and based on a normal situation. Exceptional situations such as the coronavirus crisis or the present war in Ukraine can have a significant positive or negative impact that does not provide a fair picture of goal achievement in the longer term.

1.6 Reporting on the previous long-term plan

The Long-term Plan for Research and Higher Education 2019–2028 was published in autumn 2018. During the period 2019–2022, the plan was followed up with funding in the amount of approx. NOK 3.3 billion. This includes both new allocations proposed by the Government, additional funding allocated during the Storting’s consideration of the budget and funds reallocated within the budgets. Just under NOK 1.6 billion of these funds were allocated to the follow-up of the three escalation plans for technology initiative, R&D on renewal and restructuring in the business sector and enhanced quality in higher education.

Figure 1.5 shows how the objectives and long-term priorities were followed up during the period. When we consider follow-up in both education and research, the priorities that experienced the greatest growth were enabling and industrial technologies and public sector renewal and better public services. Climate, the environment and clean energy was the priority with the greatest growth in research investments. Societal security and social cohesion in a globalised world was the priority that received the least follow-up in the form of increased allocations.

Figure 1.5 Follow-up of objectives and long-term priorities in the long-term plan for research and higher education during the period 2019–2022. NOK million.

Figure 1.5 Follow-up of objectives and long-term priorities in the long-term plan for research and higher education during the period 2019–2022. NOK million.

About NOK 1.8 billion of the funding was spent on escalation in research, while NOK 1.4 billion were spent on education. A significant proportion of the funds spent on follow-up in the education sector went to student places and increasing the number of places in the following years.

In total, the R&D allocations increased by NOK 4.3 billion during the four-year period. Some of the increase was related to the coronavirus pandemic and growing expenses associated with Norway’s participation in Horizon Europe. The total R&D allocations include funding for research and development in subordinate agencies and construction projects in the university and university college sector, as well as fees for Norway’s participation in international basic research organisations and Horizon Europe.

2 Overall objectives

This chapter provides a more detailed description of the three overall objectives set out in the long-term plan. The objectives apply to Norwegian and Sami research and higher education throughout the plan period and to all subject areas, including the six thematic priorities described in more detail in the following chapter.

2.1 Enhancing competitiveness and innovation capacity

Research, development, innovation and higher education are crucial to society’s value creation, not least now that the economy and society are undergoing a green and digital transition. In the years ahead, the Government will therefore do more to enable business and industry as well as the public sector to explore and implement knowledge and technology.

Research-driven innovation is an important source of transformation and absolutely vital to ensure future value creation and resolve the challenges facing society. Strong research and knowledge communities and well-developed international knowledge collaboration are key factors in this work. The Government bases its policy on a broad understanding of the concept of innovation. The term is understood to cover innovation in goods, services, processes, organisational models and communication, be it in the private or public sector or social innovation in civil society. Innovation work requires sound and relevant expertise, dialogue about knowledge development and effective regulatory frameworks. Innovation takes place in an interaction between different parties that is stimulated by cooperation, sharing and competition. Relevant parties will often be customers, suppliers, competitors, financial institutions, knowledge institutions, consultants, public authorities and social entrepreneurs. The public sector is to be developed by means of targeted, relevant measures and services to citizens and users based on research and knowledge, efficient resource utilisation and a high level of trust. To this end, dialogue with the population on challenges and knowledge-based solutions will be strengthened.

More research and development in business and industry and in the public sector

The ability to develop and apply new knowledge is a key to transition in existing industries and a basis for new ones. That is why this ability is one of Norwegian business and industry’s most important competitive factors. R&D investment in the business sector has seen a positive development in recent years. However, Norwegian business and industry continue to invest less overall in R&D than the average for the OECD countries.11

Public allocations to business and industry’s own R&D projects often trigger R&D investments from the business community. The Government will therefore prioritise supporting business and industry’s own R&D projects. The Government will also facilitate commercialisation and research-based start-ups in public knowledge communities. The commercialisation will help new knowledge-intensive enterprises to emerge in established as well as new industries.

Knowledge-based innovation and development in the public sector are crucial in order to protect democracy, ensure a sustainable welfare society and contribute to the green transition. The public sector accounts for more than half the economy, making it both a major market and an important partner for the private sector. An innovative public sector, both at central government and local level, is therefore important to the economy of society as a whole, including to competitiveness in the private sector.

Research is an important driver for innovation and public sector development, but the current scope is not enough to meet the needs or take full advantage of the assumed potential. Research on, in and with the public sector is important to the outcome of innovation work as well as to the Government’s trust reform. Indicators show that public sector innovation that takes place in cooperation with the research sector has better effects in the form of higher quality, increased employee satisfaction, better political goal achievement, increased user participation and greater efficiency.12 It is also important to mobilise the municipal sector to intensify its research efforts.

There is great potential for more cooperation on research-driven innovation both in the private and in the public sector. Many research institutions and communities can contribute here. The institute sector, for example, has long experience of providing a high level of research expertise of relevance to enterprises’ concrete needs.

Green and digital transition

Norway shall be a low-emission society by 2050, and the Government aims to reduce Norway’s emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. These are highly ambitious goals, and business and industry as well as the public sector have an important role to play in the green transition. A parallel digitalisation initiative will support and enable the transition. In addition to the national knowledge initiatives, Norway is participating in a major green and digital transition initiative through Horizon Europe, the European Research Area (ERA), Erasmus+ and the European Education Area. Our participation in European collaborative efforts and our own national efforts must be seen in conjunction with each other to support goal achievement.

Norwegian business and industry are in a good position to contribute to the green transition. The Norwegian labour force is well educated, the capital markets largely function well, and healthy competition contributes to innovation and high efficiency. These factors help to make change processes easier and reduce the costs of transition. Norway also has an abundance of renewable biological resources that can form a basis for new green business and industry and climate-friendly products.

The public sector can continue to use its significant purchasing power to procure green and sustainable solutions, for example through schemes such as innovation partnerships, pre-commercial procurements and other innovative forms of procurement. Efforts to promote more climate and environmentally friendly business and industry activities will help to boost green competitiveness, which can be a plus for Norwegian business and industry in national as well as global markets as more and more importance is attached to environmental considerations.

The Government wants to facilitate a general shift towards more climate and environmentally friendly solutions throughout Norway in Norwegian business and industry’s research and innovation activities. Green transition and a more efficient and circular economy with more reuse can contribute to the creation of new industry and new jobs, as well as reduce pressure on our natural resources. The Government will prioritise green innovation projects in order to stimulate a green transition in business and industry. Green transition and competitiveness are guiding principles of the targeted schemes Green Platform Initiative and green growth loans, among other things.

The Government will introduce the principle that projects that receive funding from business-oriented policy instruments shall have a place in the process towards the 2030 transition target and that Norway shall be a low-emission society by 2050. This principle covers both projects with neutral effect and projects with a positive effect on the green transition and is thus no obstacle to supporting good projects for example in the petroleum industry. The policy instruments are to mobilise good projects that contribute to the green transition or address other important purposes, including in relation to the areas mentioned in the Government’s roadmap to the Green Industrial Initiative.

Digitalisation will strengthen the competitiveness of business and industry and make society more productive through the green transition. Research-based knowledge, technology and ICT skills will help to change or create new products, production methods and business models. Digitalisation is moving fast and leaving its mark on the business sector in general and industrial development in particular, which presents great opportunities for many sectors.

Although the Norwegian public sector is among the most digitalised in the world, there is still room for improvement. Several public sector bodies are already using solutions based on artificial intelligence to provide more targeted and user-oriented services, increase the benefit of their activities to society, rationalise operations and work processes, and reduce risks. The use of artificial intelligence will probably continue to increase in future, which means that Norway will need more people with expertise on artificial intelligence and machine learning, among other things. Keeping up with these developments is hard, particularly for many of the small enterprises, and both specialised and more flexible study programmes will be required in this area.

Huge amounts of data are generated as a result of increased digitalisation, more use of sensors and more digital value chains. These data could be a highly valuable resource for future innovation and value creation, in marketing and in automated production. Public sector bodies also generate large quantities of data. Norway has good register data for many areas of society and good systems for sharing data. Good data management facilitates business development as well as a more efficient and user-centred public sector. Better data utilisation will also help Norway to succeed with its transition to a more sustainable society and a greener economy. Report No 22 to the Storting (2020–2021) Data as a resource – The data-driven economy and innovation, which was considered by the Storting in spring 2021, highlights the ambition for data to increase value creation throughout Norway. The goals and measures described in this report are intended to help to ensure that society as a whole can benefit from the value of the data and that they are used in a responsible and trustworthy manner. See also Chapter 8 on infrastructure and data sharing.

High quality in research and higher education as well as sound and relevant expertise are important in order to succeed with the green and digital transition, but more is required. In order to succeed with research-driven innovation in this field, it is also necessary to ensure good framework conditions and facilitate the interaction between Norwegian and international knowledge communities, business and industry, and the public sector. The partnership and missions in Horizon Europe and the national missions are important arenas for such interaction.

2.1.1 Measures

The Government will:

  • present a strategy setting out that research and development in business and industry shall amount to 2 per cent of GDP by 2030

  • prioritise supporting business and industry’s own R&D projects

  • continue to make education more work-relevant based on regional and national needs by facilitating more systematic dialogue and interaction

  • use research and higher education to promote competitive green industries all over Norway

  • ensure good Norwegian participation in EU knowledge initiatives for green and digital transition in Europe

  • strengthen the knowledge base of research and innovation policy for the private and public sectors

  • mobilise more actors from the full range of Norwegian business and industry as well as from the public sector, including the municipal sector, to participate and invest more in research and development

Figure 2.1 Total R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP by sector and development in R&D full-time equivalents 2001–2020. Percentages and numbers.

Figure 2.1 Total R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP by sector and development in R&D full-time equivalents 2001–2020. Percentages and numbers.

In the R&D statistics, health trusts and regional health authorities are included under the university and university college sector (university hospitals) and the institute sector (other health trusts and private non-profit hospitals).

Statistics Norway/NIFU, R&D statistics

2.2 Environmental, social and economic sustainability

The Brundtland Commission put sustainable development on the global political agenda in 1987. Its ideas were based on research-based knowledge that the complex systems that we humans depend on must be balanced to be able to develop well over time. These systems include the ecosystems as well as economic and social systems. If the systems are pushed beyond a sustainable level, we risk not only gradually weakening the systems, but also triggering self-reinforcing mechanisms that will eventually cause them to break down.

This way of thinking about sustainability formed the backdrop when the UN in 2015 adopted what is known as the 2030 Agenda, which is a global action plan for sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been put into more concrete terms in the form of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 sub-goals aimed at achieving sustainable development along three dimensions: economic, social and environmental.

Report No 40 to the Storting (2020–2021) Mål med mening (‘Meaningful goals’ – in Norwegian only) is an action plan for Norway’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This white paper describes how the Sustainable Development Goals can be understood in a Norwegian context and based on Norway’s political goals. The white paper was considered by the Storting in April 2022, see Recommendation No 218 to the Storting (2021–2022). The Government has delegated responsibility for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and pertaining sub-goals to the relevant sector ministries, which will follow up the measures adopted by the Storting.

We need even more knowledge about how to address considerations for society, the environment and the economy in the ongoing green transition. Change and development in one sector can have major, and sometimes unintended, consequences in other sectors of society. A comprehensive approach is therefore required. As emphasised in much of the feedback on the long-term plan, we need more interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral and international collaboration.

The great challenges facing society are global and cross-sectoral in nature, but at the same time they have local roots. This sometimes means that there are difficult decisions to be made when different interests must be weighed against each other, for example considerations for global greenhouse gas emissions on the one hand and local nature or indigenous people’s traditional livelihoods on the other. The knowledge base underlying such balancing acts must be as good and consensual as possible.

The European Green Deal is intended to transform the EU into a resource-efficient and competitive economy, and it is an important part of the EU strategy for implementing the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Norway supports the vision of the European Green Deal and will be a partner in this work.

Figure 2.2 The Sustainable Development Goals

Figure 2.2 The Sustainable Development Goals

Environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability means taking care of the climate, nature and other environmental assets for future generations. However, several major global knowledge reports show that the climate is changing, that the environment and natural diversity are under threat, and that developments are heading in the wrong direction.13 The most recent reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclude that our very existence is at stake, and that those who are most vulnerable will suffer the most. These challenges can only be resolved through fundamental changes to society, and we do not have much time to act to ensure a sustainable future.

Ambitious emissions targets and preservation of natural diversity must be balanced against sustainable use and management of land and environmental resources. A prerequisite for restructuring the Norwegian economy is that it must be done within the limits defined by the Paris Agreement and consideration for sustainable resource use. Norway must reduce its global footprint and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the pressure on nature.

The state of Norwegian ecosystems is good overall, but we also have challenges associated with loss of natural diversity in Norway. The most important threats to species and types of nature are man-made changes in land use. However, the most economically important fish stocks are sustainably managed, and petroleum production is subject to strict environmental requirements.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) points out that nature can be preserved, restored and used in a sustainable manner without coming into conflict with other societal goals, but that new and better solutions require new knowledge in many areas. We need knowledge about nature, the climate and sustainable management, and we also need knowledge about human behaviour if we are to succeed in achieving fair and effective restructuring. What knowledge and skills will be needed in the time ahead and the Government’s priorities in the areas of oceans and coastal areas and climate, the environment and energy are explored in more detail in sections 3.1 and 3.3.

Social sustainability

Modern society is developing at a rapid pace, and the continuous process of social, cultural, demographic and technological change is impacting on the way we live. At the same time, the social contract between individuals and society rests on respect for certain fundamental values, such as justice, equality and freedom for individuals. Social sustainability is about people and the conditions that allow them to enjoy good health and quality of life. It is also about society developing in the right direction with equitable distribution of benefits and burdens. As we have seen in other countries, injustice and exclusion, regional conflicts and tension between urban and rural areas can lead to polarisation and tendencies towards social dissolution. Political instability will in turn make it more difficult to achieve the environmental sustainability goals.

We are in a good position to maintain social sustainability in Norway, but there are nevertheless some trends that give grounds for concern. The knowledge needs in the time ahead and the Government’s priorities relating to trust and community are explored in more detail in section 3.6.

Economic sustainability

Economically sustainable development is about ensuring the financial security of people and societies within the bounds of what the planet can tolerate. Report No 14 to the Storting (2020–2021) Long-Term Perspectives on the Norwegian Economy 2021 notes that there will be fewer people of working age to support each retiree in the time ahead. The state’s expenditure on pensions and health and care services will increase, while the growth in tax revenues will slow down in step with the growth in the number of people in employment. These challenges will apply all over Norway, but will impact rural areas hardest. Compared to other countries, Norway is in a good position to deal with these challenges and undertake the necessary restructuring, however.

Development and innovation has contributed to Norway becoming the modern welfare state it is today. Going forward, we must facilitate change within sustainable economic limits. Sustainable welfare requires knowledge and prioritisation. A good education system and extensive research and development efforts will support innovation and fresh thinking. The Government will work to promote sound economic development throughout Norway.

2.3 High quality and accessibility in research and higher education

Norwegian research and higher education must be of high quality and accessible to those who need it if we are to achieve the competitiveness, innovation capacity and sustainability goals described above. It is also a goal in itself for Norway as a knowledge nation to have academically strong and well developed research and higher education systems. We shall have world-leading expert communities in certain areas and ensure high quality across the full range of research and higher education. The Government will lay a sound foundation for developing more outstanding academic and research communities and raise the quality of research and education. The Government will also ensure good access to research and education throughout Norway and fulfil its obligations in relation to Sami research and higher education. Good conditions will be put in place both for long-term basic research and thematic research. Moreover, Norway’s education and research collaboration with the rest of Europe and priority partner countries outside the EU will be continued and developed.14 Norway must also contribute to international knowledge cooperation on shared challenges, particularly in the areas that fall within the scope of the objectives and priorities described in the present long-term plan.

Quality and accessibility in research

The quality assurance systems used by the research communities themselves, such as peer review of publications, projects and appointments, are key tools for promoting and measuring quality of research. Systematic subject evaluations also generate important knowledge about the status in the field. On the basis of this knowledge, the OECD concludes that the quality of Norwegian research has improved in recent years and that the challenge going forward is to maintain quality at this level and keep up policy instruments for excellence in research, while doing more to facilitate application of the knowledge generated.15 Many institutions now have top communities with a very high level of expertise that they can use in their own strategic as well as academic development work going forward.

The most important task for decision-makers in the knowledge system is to contribute to well-functioning systems, structures, policy instruments and regulatory frameworks that will enable the research communities to produce research of the highest possible quality. The goal should be to become world-leading in areas with such potential. In any case, research must be conducted in a professionally and methodically satisfactory manner and be of consistently high quality. It must also be ensured that the quality does not drop below a critical limit that could reduce confidence in research. The Government would therefore like to include in the present long-term plan an overall discussion of some aspects of the research system that would benefit from further development. See Chapter 5 for more details.

Generally speaking, good quality of research depends on a well-functioning R&D system. This means good interaction between researcher-initiated and user-initiated research, between basic and applied research, innovation and commercialisation, and between different institutions engaged in research, such as universities, university colleges, institutes, health trusts and regional health authorities, and enterprises. It is important that these institutions have a long-term perspective, strategic priorities, modern infrastructure and the required expertise. Also, researchers must be guaranteed good working conditions and sufficient operating funds for their research activities. All these factors must be in place to enable the expert communities to work on complex and ambitious ideas and thus be attractive partners for Norwegian and international partners inside and outside academia. As the challenges facing society become more and more complex, research approaches must become increasingly interdisciplinary. It is often not enough to study technical factors in isolation. It may also be necessary to consider the social and cultural aspects of, for example, climate measures or public services. As a rule, all relevant disciplines, such as social sciences, the humanities and law, should therefore be involved in all interdisciplinary projects.

Research-based teaching is another factor that strengthens quality of research. Such teaching allows students to contribute innovative and fresh perspectives, which is important in enabling future researchers to develop their skills already during their studies.

Together, the research institutions should contribute the knowledge and skills required by the different sectors of society. A high degree of accessibility in the Norwegian research system means that research-based knowledge should be easily accessible to both the general public and enterprises of all sizes across Norway. This can be achieved by means of open access to publications, evidence syntheses, research dissemination via the media or direct contact with researchers, for example through contract research, citizen participation or other forms of cooperation.

Quality and accessibility in higher education

Quality in higher education covers students’ learning outcomes, completion rates and the labour market relevance of study programmes. The Norwegian universities and university colleges have seen a positive quality development in recent years. A lot of work has gone into ensuring coherence and cohesion in study programmes, developing more student-active learning methods and introducing digital tools. Results in some areas remain inadequate, however.16

Universities and university colleges educate graduates who should be able to meet the current skills needs as well as new needs triggered by social and technological change. Those who are students today will be involved in developing the labour market of the future with their professional expertise and generic skills such as critical and analytical thinking, information processing, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Institutions that cooperate well with the labour market and other stakeholders gain good insight into which skills are needed. Cooperation will thus make it easier to create attractive and relevant study programmes throughout Norway.

Higher education is also a means of personal development and liberation and should promote civic engagement, taking control of one’s own life and contributing to the development of society. Higher education offers students the opportunity to realise their potential, both in a personal and social sense, by acquiring sound academic knowledge and practising fact-based argumentation, among other skills. The classic academic goal of formative education will remain a key focus of higher education in Norway. See also Chapter 7 on academic freedom and trust in research.

Figure 2.3 Factors of significance to quality in higher education

Figure 2.3 Factors of significance to quality in higher education

Report No 16 to the Storting (2016–2017) Quality Culture in Higher Education (white paper on quality in higher education)

Norway falls below the average for OECD countries in terms of growth in the proportion of the population that has completed higher education. The reasons for this are complex.17 If development continues at the same pace as over the past ten years, the proportion of the population aged 25–34 that has completed higher education will fall below the average for OECD countries in 2033. However, educational propensity has increased somewhat in recent years, particularly in 2020. This is linked to the coronavirus pandemic, among other things. In 2022, 11.8 per cent of qualified applicants had not been offered a place after the supplementary admission round.18

Educational capacity is dimensioned with a view to covering student demand for education and the labour market’s need for qualified labour throughout Norway. The institutions are responsible for adjusting their capacity accordingly. This means that they need to know the skills needs of the different regional labour markets. To that end, they must be in dialogue with regional authorities and parties that know of skills needs and shortages of qualified labour. It will not be possible to fund future growth in educational capacity in priority areas based on increased allocations alone. The institutions themselves will contribute by reordering priorities within their own budgets as required. See Chapter 4 for a more detailed discussion of educational capacity.

The Government will maintain a decentralised structure and contribute to better quality of education and lifelong learning. Services throughout Norway must be based on high-quality research and education. A closer connection between programmes of education and local enterprises will help to make the programmes more relevant. According to the demographics committee behind Official Norwegian Report NOU 2020: 15 Det handler om Norge – Utredning om konsekvenser av demografiutfordringer i distriktene (‘It’s about Norway – report on the consequences of demographic challenges in rural areas’ – in Norwegian only), the availability of local expertise is the most important factor in the establishment of local knowledge enterprises.

The Government is working to improve access to flexible study programmes that can be taken as further or continuing education in combination with employment. Lifelong learning and flexible and decentralised studies form an important part of the institutions’ social mission. Digital technology and digital teaching methods must be used to adapt study programmes to regional and local needs to make both the study programmes and skills more accessible.19

3 Thematic priorities

The six thematic priorities presented in this chapter are areas in which the Government considers it particularly important for Norway to make strategic investments in research and higher education in the years ahead. For each priority, we describe the associated challenges and knowledge needs going forward, before concluding by describing planned measures and follow-up.

3.1 Oceans and coastal areas

The oceans and coastal areas of the world provide us with food, energy, jobs, natural and cultural experiences, and they are the key to achieving several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The oceans cover 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and are home to a wealth of species and ecosystems with a wide range of natural assets. Ocean currents connect the oceans, we share fish stocks with neighbouring countries, and maritime transport links continents. Transport by sea is important to the ocean-based industries and contributes to the national and international flow of goods. The oceans play a very important role in the climate system, as they provide about half the world’s oxygen production and absorb about 25–30 per cent of our annual CO2 emissions. At the same time, our oceans are under pressure from climate change, pollution, overconsumption of harvestable resources and loss of natural diversity. Norwegian ocean areas are also under pressure, but with the exception of some coastal areas, the general state of Norwegian waters is good. Conditions vary more in other countries’ waters and in international waters. Different ocean areas are facing different challenges, which highlights the importance of targeted knowledge and expertise adapted to different oceans and coastal areas as well as different purposes.

The oceans present great opportunities for fulfilling the world’s food, energy and transport needs in a sustainable manner. Norway has a particular management responsibility in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and our ocean-based industries are world-leading in the fields of petroleum production, shipping, fisheries and aquaculture. Norway is home to very strong research communities in all of these areas, and we have sound educational institutions that contribute to a high level of expertise across this range of industries. These communities and institutions also contribute to the understanding and management of the oceans and coastal areas. The education programmes need to impart specific as well as generic knowledge and skills, and it is important that people already in employment have the chance to update their knowledge and skills.

The projects that receive support under the Research Council’s Oceans research portfolio are deemed to be of high quality and relevance. Norway is also achieving excellent results in the competition for European research funding, and we play a key role in developing and coordinating important initiatives and partnerships. We also engage in extensive research collaboration with countries outside Europe.20 Based on the above, it is natural that we should have ambitions to further develop our knowledge about ecological relationships in the sea going forward. We should also make research results more accessible and applicable, for example by devoting more attention to data sharing and standardisation of systems.

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) forms an important context for work on the thematic priority of oceans and coastal areas. Norway’s contribution to this effort aims to strengthen national as well as international expertise in the field. Norway’s participation in the EU mission ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030’ will also be important for achieving the goal of a healthier ocean where greenhouse gas emissions and marine litter are reduced. The opportunity to utilise marine resources in a sustainable manner is closely linked to a good environmental status. The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (the Ocean Panel), chaired by Norway and Palau, have pointed out the link between the ocean economy, good ocean management and abundant and clean oceans. An important part of Norway’s development cooperation policy is to promote sustainable oceans, and knowledge and research must contribute to making our efforts as effective as possible.

3.1.1 Main challenges and knowledge needs Oceans, climate and the environment

Integrated ocean management

The management of Norway’s ocean areas is based on sound knowledge. However, many aspects of the ocean and coastal environments are poorly understood, and we must continue to build knowledge and expertise. Further developing our understanding of the ocean and coastal areas is vital to managing marine ecosystems in a sustainable manner.

The oceans play an important role in regulating the climate and slowing down global warming by absorbing excess heat and CO2. However, excessive absorption of heat and CO2 from the atmosphere has a detrimental effect on marine life. Under an ecosystem-based ocean and coastal area management regime, we have to consider the consequences of climate change in conjunction with other impact factors. We must also adapt and strengthen the management regime when climate and environmental conditions change. Climate change poses new challenges when it comes to ensuring that the overall management and resource utilisation are sustainable. At the same time, the existing knowledge base must be further developed to support our ocean management.

Growing challenges related to ocean and climate, including loss of natural diversity, ocean acidification, environmental toxins, plastic pollution and other impact factors, affect the dynamics and function of ecosystems, and must be met with measures to keep marine ecosystems robust and productive. We need more knowledge about and a better understanding of how the ecosystems function and interact, as well as how they are affected by the sum of different impact factors. Norway emphasises a knowledge-based, integrated and responsible ocean and coastal management regime that builds on a sound knowledge base obtained through mapping, research and environmental monitoring.

We also need better methods for monitoring changes and assessing the overall pressure and impact on marine ecosystems. Efficient data collection will enable us to obtain better knowledge more quickly about the status of and changes in the ocean. Increased digitalisation and use of artificial intelligence are important to make efficient use of large quantities of data. We can also use more data from environmental monitoring in research.

It is important to make active use of existing knowledge and make it accessible and understandable to relevant users. Using the knowledge in ocean management systems is useful because it introduces new approaches and drives further knowledge development. In some fields, using knowledge syntheses can provide new insight and benefit management. International management brings together different states, organisations and political cultures. This triggers a need to see different disciplines in conjunction with each other. We need to develop more knowledge about the integrated management of oceans and coastal areas through research in social sciences, the humanities and law, among other disciplines.

Oceans and climate

Marine nature conservation is important for building robust marine ecosystems and ensuring natural diversity, biological production capacity and a basis for harvesting. This will require us to further develop our knowledge about conservation measures and sustainable use of marine nature. Knowledge about oceans and climate is especially relevant in this context, particularly considering how climate change affects the oceans and ecosystems and how they absorb greenhouse gases. This knowledge is important for assessing nature-based carbon capture and storage solutions. Seaweed, kelp and eelgrass are often referred to as the ‘blue forest’. Along with other plants and phytoplankton in the sea, the blue forest is valuable from a climate perspective because it absorbs and stores CO2. Seawater and marine plants account for about half of all CO2 absorption. Marine plants and phytoplankton also produce half the Earth’s oxygen. Increased knowledge about the significance of the blue forest in the climate context and sustainable seaweed management and cultivation could contribute to carbon capture as well as to the development of new business activities. The interaction between the climate and the environment is an important topic in the Decade of Ocean Science. Understanding how the blue forest is impacted by and impacts the ecosystem, carbon budget and human activity is important to understanding this interaction. Another relevant topic is ecosystem accounting, which entails putting a value on marine ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Increasing ocean acidification resulting from CO2 absorption is one of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, and we therefore need more knowledge about its effects on marine life. The importance of conservation and restoration measures to restore functions and make marine ecosystems robust to climate impacts is a key area of research when it comes to developing ocean management. Preventing damage by alien organisms is a topic that requires sound knowledge of the dispersal routes and ecological impact of such species, including under changed climatic conditions.

Ocean warming leads to changes in marine ecosystems. Arctic species are pushed further north, while Atlantic species have expanded their geographical range. In Norwegian waters, these changes are particularly evident in the northernmost areas and the Arctic Ocean. There has been a rapid decline in sea ice levels in recent decades, both in terms of extent and thickness, and open ocean is becoming increasingly dominant. We therefore need knowledge about how the ocean currents, carbon cycle and fish migrations develop in the Arctic Ocean when it is only covered in ice during winter. This fundamental knowledge is needed in order to understand and manage the consequences of climate and ecosystem-related changes for fisheries and society.

Carbon storage in sediments on the seabed is attracting more and more attention, but we still do not know enough about the implications of such processes. More knowledge is needed about carbon storage in the seabed and about the emission impact of activities that affect the seabed.

Many circumstances combine to create a great demand for critical metals and rare earth elements: the green transition, electrification, digitalisation, batteries and renewable energy sources. Many of the minerals and metals needed for such purposes can be found on the seabed. Research and technology development is required to make commercial extraction of seabed minerals a reality, and to enable such activities to be carried out in a sustainable manner.

Environmental toxins and pollution

Limiting marine pollution is important to safeguard ocean health, ensure safe food production and conserve marine ecosystems. Knowledge documenting the prevalence and effects of harmful chemical substances in the environment leads to new substances constantly being identified as environmental toxins. Environmental monitoring and documentation of toxicological effects and overall ecosystem impacts form an important basis for good international regulation of environmental toxins.

The term ‘plastic pollution’ covers plastic waste of all sizes, all the way down to microplastics and nanoplastics, that has ended up in the environment. Plastic production and the quantities that end up in the oceans are increasing rapidly. Plastics are not easily broken down in nature, and they pose a threat to marine life, living resources, safe seafood and human use of the sea in many different ways. There is also concern about how microplastics and nanoplastics affect humans and animals. The international community has adopted a process and a mandate for negotiating a global treaty to end plastic pollution through the United Nations Environment Assembly. The treaty text is scheduled to be completed in 2024. Consensual knowledge and application of knowledge will be crucial to such a treaty, among other things in relation to measurement methods, indicators, reporting and statistics on environmental status and discharges. Other relevant topics include the spread and impact of plastics in the environment, the link to environmental toxins and alien organisms, and the health effects of plastics. We also need knowledge about sustainable alternatives to plastics, the consequences of replacing plastics with other materials and effective measures to prevent plastic pollution. The Norwegian Plastics Strategy, published in June 2021, describes several knowledge needs that will be prioritised in the time ahead. Plastic pollution is an area where measures and knowledge are developing at a rapid pace. Any research initiatives must therefore be sufficiently flexible to accommodate this.

Environmental monitoring technology

New technologies and methods for environmental monitoring of ocean areas can lead to huge leaps in development in terms of data material, data quantities and knowledge production, not least in relation to environmental conditions that are changing under the influence of climate change. New technologies and methods can also lead to more effective knowledge production. Surveying and environmental monitoring also provide data that can form a basis for research. Monitoring of how human activity impacts the marine environment, and what effects this impact is having, must be further developed. We also need to further develop our understanding of what is caused by the impact of activities in ocean areas or adjoining coastal and land areas, what is caused by climate change and other extensive changes, and what is caused by natural processes and variation in the oceans. Ocean surveying and monitoring is also a field where we need to develop better and more cost-effective methods. If Norwegian actors develop new environmental monitoring methods and technologies, this could give them an advantage and an opportunity to supply an international market. Increasing value creation by means of sustainable management of ocean-based industries

Ocean-based industries account for a significant proportion of Norway’s value creation and employment. The ocean-based industries contributed a total of NOK 680.9 billion in value added in 2019, which accounts for about 19 per cent of the total economy. Fisheries and aquaculture alone were responsible for export value of approx. NOK 120.8 billion in 2021. We are not alone at sea, however – these resources are managed in cooperation with other countries.

Textbox 3.1 Ocean Space Centre

If Norway is to continue to be a leading nation in ocean-based industries, it is important to have laboratories to help these industries to continue to develop.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) current marine technology laboratories at Tyholt in Trondheim is the largest facility in Europe for teaching, research and equipment development in its field. The research facility is used for teaching, basic research, commissioned research and innovation. The upgrading of NTNU’s marine technology laboratories is the most important national knowledge investment in future value creation in ocean-based industries.

The new facility at Tyholt, Ocean Space Centre (OSC), will secure value creation for Norway by ensuring competitive ocean space industries. The OSC will make Norwegian ocean space industries more productive by means of:

  • knowledge and technology development

  • knowledge externalities

  • a world-leading educational environment

  • contributions to restructuring in business and industry

The OSC will be an important knowledge, research and educational environment for Trondheim and for Norway as a whole. The centre will also be an important part of the European research infrastructure.

The OSC will include machinery and marine structures laboratories, two basins (an ocean laboratory and an ocean basin laboratory), and a fjord laboratory (comprising three hubs: in the Trondheimsfjord, off the islands Hitra/Frøya and off Ålesund). The centre will also have teaching rooms, student laboratories and offices. NTNU will manage the centre and run it in collaboration with Sintef. The budget for the project is just over NOK 8 billion.

The ocean connects us to the rest of the world

Pollution and environmental toxins from emissions on land and at sea spread over large areas. If we are to safeguard and strengthen the oceans’ function as a source of food, fundamental ecosystem services, value creation and employment, we must manage them in a sustainable manner and ensure sustainable business and industry both on land and at sea. We have undertaken through the Ocean Panel to ensure sustainable management of all our waters by 2025.

There is a continuous need for research on and development of management regimes, national as well as international ones. It is important to take a comprehensive perspective on how we impact the oceans and the marine environment, as well as on how industries impact each other. The management systems and regulatory frameworks of the future should be developed in such a way as to stimulate innovation and encourage the industries’ value chains to build systems for efficient utilisation of resources and a more circular economy that can help to keep our footprints within acceptable limits. Many of the ocean-based value chains are currently international and involve multinational commercial enterprises, which makes international cooperation on research and framework conditions for the management of marine resources absolutely vital.

Education, research and innovation all have important parts to play in relation to our oceans. Education programmes must incorporate the continuous flow of new and relevant knowledge about sustainability, and the knowledge must be shared and exchanged with other countries. Research and innovation are particularly important when it comes to finding and developing solutions that lower the overall environmental impact, but without excessive implications for the costs of business and industry and our welfare. These solutions comprise both technology and better ways of working that address the circular economy. It is also important that research on the Law of the Sea and important management mechanisms contributes forward-looking insights. The management systems must be adapted to the context in which they are to function, which also requires perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. This makes research and education in these disciplines important, too. Furthermore, the management of oceans and coastal areas must consider the coexistence of different industries at sea and along the coast. This research requires costly high-quality infrastructure that must be used as efficiently as possible. This applies to research vessels, instruments and equipment, research stations, satellites etc.

Coexistence in our ocean and coastal areas

Developing sustainable ocean-based industries is very challenging. The needs of existing industries such as fisheries, aquaculture, transport and the petroleum industry must be addressed while new industries are established. Examples of new industries include offshore wind power, offshore aquaculture, subsea storage of CO2, deep-sea mining for minerals, crab fishing in the Barents Sea, harvesting of the plankton species Calanus finnmarchicus and new mesopelagic species and cultivation of seaweed, molluscs and tunicates. Successful coexistence between industries and sustainable management are required in order to utilise the ocean’s full commercial potential. We therefore need to know more about how existing and new industries impact each other and the ecosystems. Climate change is currently having a significant impact on our ocean, coastal and fjord systems, and our management of ocean-based industries will have to take this impact into account. Fisheries are affected by fish stocks changing their migration patterns, and increased temperature and run-off affect the situation in the aquaculture industry. This requires the continuous development of research on fish stocks as well as aquaculture. We also need more knowledge about seabed conditions in relevant areas and about the effects of offshore wind power and deep-sea mineral mining on marine resources, nature and other industries. An up-to-date survey and overview of important spawning grounds will be one of many important knowledge tools.

Large areas are required to cultivate seaweed, kelp, tunicates etc., and this makes it challenging for such activities to coexist with recreational outdoor pursuits as well as with other industries. More research should therefore be conducted on the effects of this industry and on possibilities for good and effective area allocation in the coastal zone. Further research would also be welcome on possible ways of combining seaweed and mollusc production with different forms of aquaculture and offshore wind power.

In addition to research on the technological and scientific aspects, we also need input from social science research to ensure that the regulatory framework is designed in a good manner. Among other things, we need to know what effect digitalisation and new technology will have on the risks associated with different business activities. Efficient coexistence between sectors depends on them sharing data with each other and coordinating digitalisation efforts, for example by using common data standards.

Safeguarding the ocean as a source of food – sustainable growth in fisheries and aquaculture

Food from the sea will be crucial to ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing global population. Seafood is also beneficial from a nutritional and health perspective, as well as from a climate perspective. Better use can be made of marine food production, both for animal and human consumption, by harvesting and cultivating marine species at a lower trophic level. However, a number of challenges must be resolved in order to ensure that products are safe and healthy. We must ensure continuous monitoring of the content of nutrients and contaminants in seafood, and new knowledge and new innovations are required to make optimum use of these resources.

We also need new knowledge about the combined public health effects of contaminants and nutrients in fish and other seafood. More knowledge of causal connections is needed in order to minimise the risk of excessive amounts of contaminants in food and feed.

It is important to develop technologies and methods to monitor and detect toxic algae, environmental toxins and plastic pollution. At the same time, it is important to generate knowledge that can help us to find and eliminate the sources of, and develop technologies that can remove, harmful components from food and feed. We also need to understand how seafood value chains impact the climate and how big their footprints are. Knowledge about the importance of sustainable seafood production in a national and global food safety and nutrition perspective must be strengthened.

Sustainable fisheries depend on good research on stocks and resources in the ocean, along the coast and in the fjords, and these are priority areas in marine research. The basis for this research is the plans for growth in aquaculture through new forms of operation. New knowledge about sustainability and fish welfare is crucial to the success of this ambition. We need to know more about how to get robust fish with a high survival rate. New marine business opportunities that could provide more food and feed include cultivating seaweed, kelp, tunicates etc. Any excess nutrient salts will be absorbed in the course of such production.

Sustainable marine food production depends on the availability of feed with low greenhouse gas emissions. High-quality feed must be developed that ensures food that is safe for consumers and that is good for the environment. Feed production from more local sources must be increased, and resources must be utilised in a more efficient and circular manner. New and innovative solutions for more advanced processing will be important in developing this industry in Norway. Increased sustainable feed production in Norway will open up possibilities for employment and export of technology. The mission of sustainable feed for farmed fish and livestock is discussed under the priority climate, the environment and energy. Climate and environmentally friendly maritime transport

Norway is a leading maritime nation, and Norwegian shipping companies operate in a global market. It is our ambition to halve emissions from domestic shipping and fishing vessels by 2030 compared with the 2005 level. This means encouraging the use of zero-emission and low-emission solutions in all vessel categories, cf. Report No 13 to the Storting (2020–2021) Norway’s Climate Action Plan for 2021–2030.

Norwegian shipping must be restructured in order to meet national and international climate commitments, and its decarbonisation is only just beginning.21 Zero-emission vessels make up about 1 per cent of all Norwegian ships, while 23 per cent have hybrid electric propulsion systems, run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) or use other low-emission solutions, for example diesel-electric engines on offshore vessels.

The Government expects the maritime policy to contribute to the development of world-leading Norwegian industrial and expert communities. The authorities will, in cooperation with the industry, ensure that zero-emission and low-emission shipping becomes an important Norwegian contribution to reducing global emissions. Investing in green shipping will also contribute to value creation and employment in Norway.

The national research and innovation strategy Maritim21 recommends intensifying efforts to digitalise the maritime sector, developing low-emission and zero-emission solutions and working across maritime value chains. Norway is participating in the Zero-Emission Shipping Mission, which is a public-private innovation alliance under the global initiative Mission Innovation. The target is for at least 5 per cent of the global deep sea fleet to run on zero-emission fuels by 2030. Norway has also signed the Clydebank Declaration along with 21 other countries.22 The 22 signatories will work together to establish at least six green corridors by the middle of the present decade.

This development towards climate and environmentally friendly maritime transport requires new energy carriers and propulsion systems, solutions to improve energy efficiency, cleaning technologies to prevent emissions to air and discharges to sea, and digital solutions to rationalise shipping. This transition also requires zero-emission solutions to be developed and demonstrated for large vessels that cover long distances.

Cooperation across disciplines and operational expertise on safe use of new technology are also needed. The decarbonisation of the Norwegian and international fleets of vessels depends on access to new energy carriers and infrastructure in ports where ships call and refuel, and on green products and services throughout the maritime value chain. Reliable energy supply from the sea

The oil and gas industry is Norway’s biggest single industry measured by value creation, central government revenue, investment and export value, and it contributes to economic activity all over Norway. The Government will continue to invest in energy and petroleum research, among other things in order to achieve the goals of reduced greenhouse gas emissions in Norway by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050. Energy and petroleum research is also expected to help Norway to achieve its goals for transition, new green industries and increased export revenues. Investments in petroleum research are intended to help the further development of the industry and ensure that it remains profitable in the future. The Government emphasises that exploration and recovery activities on the Norwegian continental shelf should be based on Norwegian world-leading technology that addresses weighty considerations for health, safety and the environment as well as coexistence with other industries.

Emissions from the continental shelf is to be reduced, and the Government’s policy will actively support green a transition based on using expertise from the oil and gas industry in new industries. The authorities will, in cooperation with the petroleum industry, work to reduce emissions from oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf by 50 per cent by 2030 and to net zero in 2050. Current knowledge indicates that reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 will require investments in the order of tens of billions of Norwegian kroner. However, research and development will play an important role in work to reduce costs and find good solutions for emission reduction and restructuring.

Norway will continue to be a stable long-term supplier of oil and gas to Europe during an extremely demanding time. However, the Norwegian continental shelf has entered the mature phase and is set to gradually decrease production. About 50 per cent of the estimated total recoverable resources (including areas that have not been opened for petroleum activities) have already been produced. Research on geology and subsurface understanding is therefore important to increase value creation and recover the remaining resources on the Norwegian continental shelf. Such expertise also has transfer value to other industries and sectors of society.

Digitalisation will be important, as will the development of digital tools in order to enable better resource utilisation and contribute to energy savings, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce risk during drilling. At the same time, it can be challenging to carry out overall assessments of the potential health and working environment consequences of changes that concern an increasing number of automated processes.

The petroleum and supplier industries have close links to strong research environments as well as expertise, knowledge and technology that will be needed in industrial development towards the green transition both on land and at sea. This expertise could thus be important to the Norwegian economy long after oil and gas production has come to an end. It will be important, however, to ensure that other and new industries make use of the expertise and technology possessed by the petroleum industry. For example, the Government is very ambitious when it comes to offshore wind power and other new industries, such as extraction of seabed minerals, carbon capture and storage, and blue hydrogen. These industries will also benefit greatly from the petroleum and supplier industries’ expertise. The development of new sources of energy and new technology for the green transition is discussed in more detail under the priority climate, the environment and energy.

3.1.2 Measures and follow-up

The Government expects universities, university colleges, hospital trusts, regional health authorities and research institutes that receive public basic funding to follow up the thematic prioritisation of oceans and coastal areas and help to meet the knowledge and skills needs described above within their capabilities and areas of responsibility.

The Government will:

  • give particular priority to the following areas of research and research-driven innovation:

    • technology and other solutions to increase the value of industries in ocean and coastal areas and on the continental shelf

    • coexistence between ocean-based industries and sound management of ecosystems and resources in ocean and coastal areas

    • the impact of climate change and the role of the ocean in the climate system, including in the Arctic Ocean

    • nature-based solutions for carbon capture and storage in the sea

    • clean and productive seas and healthy and safe seafood

    • energy and petroleum research that contributes to green transition and low emissions and further develops the industry so that it remains profitable in future

    • climate and environmentally friendly maritime transport based on the priorities of the Maritim21 strategy

  • give particular priority to the following areas in higher education and skills:

    • relevant programmes of professional study and discipline programmes for ocean-based industries and the management and understanding of oceans and coastal areas

    • decentralised and flexible education

  • launch a mission for the purpose of ensuring that all feed for farmed fish and livestock should come from sustainable sources (see the priority climate, the environment and energy for details)

  • consider measures to make better use of large quantities of data, for example in connection with ocean management

  • facilitate efficient utilisation of research vessels and other research infrastructure

3.2 Health

Good health and quality of life are prerequisites for a good life and for being able to contribute to and participate in society. This forms the basis for UN Sustainable Development Goal 3. There are several reasons why health is a separate priority in this long-term plan. The coronavirus pandemic and how it has been managed have demonstrated how important health is for society and for the economy, in addition to the purely health-related impact. The pandemic has also demonstrated the importance of basic research as well as how research and innovation actors play a crucial role in providing the knowledge required to deal with a health crisis.

Good public health is a prerequisite for the sustainable development of society. Social and gender inequities in health, demographic changes, development of the burden of disease with a high proportion of non-communicable diseases, growing health expenditure and a falling rate of employment all bring a more pressing need for knowledge-based public health work.

Public health, animal health, plant health, food production and our surrounding environment are closely linked, and this forms the basis for the concept of One Health. Throughout history, people have been able to overcome many serious infectious diseases – including through measures targeting the environment. Climate change, globalisation, urbanisation and population growth mean that we must expect infectious diseases to spread more quickly and to more people worldwide. Complex health challenges cannot be resolved unless different disciplines, methods and ideas come together to form a greater whole. Such a scientific convergence must take account of these connections on a scale that we have hitherto not have succeeded in achieving.

Norway will have sustainable health and care services in the years ahead. However, a growing number of elderly people and changes in the burden of disease will increase pressure on these services going forward. Health and social service personnel are the most important input factor in the health and care services, and account for about two-thirds of the specialist health service expenditure. Projections indicate that, if the current use of personnel continues, the number of full-time equivalents needed will increase by about 35 per cent over the next 15 years.23 The capacity to train health and social service personnel and their expertise must correspond to the needs of the services and be organised in accordance with developments in demographics, burden of disease, the way in which services are organised and the development of new, knowledge-based treatment methods. At the same time, we cannot staff our way out of the consequences of demographic developments. The need for services can be reduced by placing greater emphasis on prevention and empowerment.

Health and care is the biggest thematic research area in Norway and the second largest area of education measured by student numbers. Norway is home to a growing health industry and big research and expert communities in life sciences, the study of cancer and neuroscience. Research is one of our hospitals’ four main tasks, and the universities, university colleges and hospital trusts collaborate closely on health and care research. It is a goal to increase research in and on services at municipal and county authority level, as well as on factors that have a bearing on public health. Better use of public health data and health and register data through research can help to improve the quality of services, give us better overview of public health risk and impact factors, and help us to develop new and effective treatments. Using such data in cooperation with business and industry could increase Norway’s value creation while also improving health. Sufficient capacity in the education system is another input factor required to strengthen research capacity.

Health as a priority in the long-term plan will promote measures in research and higher education that help to improve our ability to succeed in resolving the health and care challenges. The measures are intended to provide more knowledge, innovation, business development and skills development, a more interdisciplinary approach and better cooperation. Good interaction between policy instruments in several sectors is needed to resolve challenges and promote good human, animal, plant and environmental health. Prevention and ongoing efforts are important in preventing and dealing with crises. Crisis preparedness and management are discussed under the priority societal security and civil preparedness. Inclusive societies characterised by good childhoods, participation and employment are very important to health, and are primarily discussed under the priority trust and community.

3.2.1 Main challenges and knowledge needs Public health challenges

Public health is crucial to the population’s state of health and to the development of people’s health and quality of life. Our health is influenced by society, and good health is primarily developed outside of the health and care services. The way in which society is organised and facilitates good health choices over the course of a life is crucial to public health. The social distribution of determinants for health development is also important.

Mental health issues and mental disorders are among our biggest public health challenges. More knowledge is needed about what is causing the increasing prevalence of mental health issues and mental disorders among young people, the consequences of this development and what action can be taken. It is also necessary to strengthen mental health literacy in the population to promote good mental health and prevent mental health problems. The long-term public health research efforts have two main priorities. The first is to obtain better public health data, including data on the burden of disease and how it is influenced by demographic trends. Among other things, research needs to become more representative of different population groups and make better use of links to register data. The second main priority is research on measures and their health benefits, cost efficiency and any unintended consequences. The Norwegian programme for municipal public health work 2017–2027 is considered as a platform for developing a knowledge system for public health in the municipalities. Social sciences make significant contributions to research on prevention and has great potential for bolstering the success of public health efforts.

A good shared knowledge base requires good cooperation across different sectors as well as with business and industry. A knowledge system can give Norway a shared public health knowledge base that puts us in the best possible position to achieve national and international public health goals towards 2030. The content of the public health knowledge system will be described in more detail in the white paper on public health that is scheduled to be submitted in 2023.

Health issues may explain why many people are not in employment or education, not least mental health issues and disorders and musculoskeletal disorders. Despite having a relatively healthy population, Norway has a higher proportion of the population receiving health-related benefits than any other OECD country.24 We know a lot about the use of health-related benefits, but less about why the proportion is higher than in comparable countries. Research is still needed to elucidate links between health, the labour market and employment, as well as on the reasons why such a high proportion of the population is receiving health-related benefits.

The working environment can have a positive as well as a negative effect on the health of employees. In order to ensure a sustainable working life in future, it is vital to continue to develop knowledge about the working environment factors that promote health and those that constitute a potential risk of ill health and work-related sickness absence and dropout. We also need knowledge about what it takes to prevent ill health and its consequences.

Vulnerable children and young people are particularly at risk of developing ill health. For example, we know that children who are subject to child welfare service measures often also have a great need for health and care services. We need more knowledge about vulnerable children and young people, including risk factors, the effect of preventive measures and measures to counteract exclusion, marginalisation and mental and physical issues and illness. See the priority trust and community for more information about vulnerable children and young people.

Gender is a factor in health and health issues. We have to ensure that everyone who lives in Norway, regardless of gender, are given equal opportunities for the best possible health and receive safe, good health and care services when they need them. More research is needed on gender-related health differences and their causes. We also need more knowledge about trends that can cause undesirable gender inequities in health, with a particular focus on women’s health.

In order to understand how changes to the climate and environment may impact public health in Norway, we need to facilitate cross-sector cooperation and a strong expert community that works in a comprehensive and systematic manner. This is also important in order to participate in health collaboration in the Horizon Europe programme.

The Government wants to fight infectious diseases and contribute to the funding, development and equitable distribution of vaccines and other technology that the market will not provide on its own. A global health project via the Research Council will fund research that can contribute to lasting improvement in the health of vulnerable groups in low-income and lower-middle-income countries. The project is also intended to contribute to ensuring that the knowledge is relevant for policy formation and practical use. Moreover, it will help to fulfil Norway’s obligations under a new global health partnership in Horizon Europe, EU-Africa Global Health Partnership. The One Health approach

The coronavirus pandemic has proven that animal and human health are interconnected. There is a great need for knowledge about the links between public health, animal health, plant health, food production and the environment (One Health). Transfer of diseases between animals and humans, either directly or via food, feed, water etc., could pose a threat to our health and welfare. The majority of new infectious diseases that occur in humans are diseases that have been transferred from animals (zoonoses).25 That is why we need knowledge that helps us to understand how and why pathogenic microorganisms are transferred between animals, humans and the environment on land, at the coast and in the sea. Such knowledge is important to enable us to monitor, predict and prevent future disease outbreaks, and not least reduce the scale of consequences of such outbreaks. It is crucial that such knowledge is based on an interdisciplinary, cross-sector and comprehensive One Health approach.

A comprehensive approach is also vital in building robust, safe and sustainable food systems,26 which in turn are important to ensure good public health, animal and fish health and plant health, as well as safe food production and a safe environment. In order to continue to produce healthy and safe food in future, we need knowledge about the effects of climate change on Norway’s food production and different production systems, among other things. We also need to know what effect climate change has on the use of new food and feed resources, new technology and new packaging solutions. Furthermore, we need more knowledge about the accumulation of environmental toxins and other contaminants in organisms and food chains, exposure to such substances and their potential harmful effects on health and the environment.

The fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is one of the greatest threats to global health, food safety and modern medicine, must also be based on an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach to health. Incorrect use and overuse of antibiotics mean that more infections, both in humans and animals, are becoming increasingly difficult to treat, and this could in turn lead to longer hospital stays, increased health and care expenses, increased mortality and poorer animal health and animal welfare. Therefore, we need to know more about how we can reduce the need for and use of antibiotics and how to prevent resistant bacteria from spreading. We also need more knowledge about alternatives to antibiotics, infection control measures and vaccines in preventive work among animals as well as humans, and measures to limit the spread of infections. Research is also sorely needed on the role the environment plays in the development and spread of resistant bacteria and resistant genes, and how they are transferred in and between the land and the sea, including humans, domesticated and wild animals. New knowledge in these areas will help to prevent major outbreaks of disease and reduce the use of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. The knowledge will also ensure that we use medication in the correct way to deal with and minimise the challenges posed by resistance. Sustainability of services under pressure

A lack of qualified personnel is a challenge that several parts of the health and care services is already facing, particularly in rural areas.27 The needs for health and social service personnel will follow developments in the burden of disease, which is influenced by demographic trends such as increasing life expectancy, lower birth rates and certain migration patterns. At the same time, the demographic trends will also affect the availability of personnel. This comes on top of growth in the use of health and care services among younger users, which increases pressure on health and care services. Mental health and substance abuse services in particular are seeing growing demand. Priority will therefore be given to health and social service personnel who specialise in this area during the present plan period. The content of the study programmes that educate the health personnel Norway needs must also meet the needs of a health and care sector undergoing rapid development. The overall composition of skills and personnel will therefore vary over time. New personnel groups will be required, and some of the traditional ones will become less important. The Government has appointed the Health Personnel Commission for the purpose of establishing a knowledge base and proposing targeted measures for the years ahead to educate, recruit and retain qualified personnel in health and care services all over Norway. The intention is to address the short-term and long-term challenges facing the health and care services.

The National Curriculum Regulations for Norwegian Health and Welfare Education (RETHOS) project is developing national guidelines for health and social work education programmes. RETHOS is based on cooperation between the university and university college sector, the service sector and students to produce graduates whose skills meets the services’ needs. The project will be evaluated during the period 2023–2025. The systems that are to estimate the overall need for health and social service personnel and the need for different groups of personnel, including any new types of personnel, must be developed to meet the service needs. The content and capacity of the health and social work programmes must also be organised to meet the service needs. Decentralised education models could improve local recruitment and form important elements of the efforts to recruit health and social service personnel to rural areas.28

If health-related tasks are carried out in the same way and using the same composition of personnel in future as they are today, simply increasing the educational capacity and staffing of health and care services will not be sustainable. Changes in society mean that services must be provided in new ways. Innovation and cooperation with business and industry will be key factors in creating sustainable health and care services all over Norway.

However, changes to the organisation, task-sharing and use of labour-saving innovations require health and social service personnel to take part in development and innovation work and in the implementation of the solutions arrived at. We also need knowledge communities that can help to evaluate the effects as new innovations are implemented and spread. Among other things, they can make systematic use of health data to assess effects. These communities must therefore include health sciences such as medicine and life science, but it will also be relevant to involve the humanities and social sciences in these knowledge communities. Contributions from the humanities and social sciences can be important to ensure that the sector implements knowledge and measures, and in connection with cooperation and ethical user participation.

Clinical training plays a vital part in achieving the learning outcomes for many study programmes that educate healthcare professionals, and a lack of clinical training places is often the factor that limits the possibility to increase educational capacity. This requires closer, more dynamic and binding local cooperation between educational institutions and the health and care services to ensure that all relevant learning arenas are used. Improving quality and increasing capacity in clinical training placements in the municipalities are crucial if we are to educate a sufficient number of qualified staff for the health and welfare services. The Government has therefore entered into a bilateral cooperation agreement with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) to raise quality and capacity in practical and clinical training placements for health and social work students. It will also be necessary to make the most of the scope for using other solutions, such as simulation, to boost capacity and quality in clinical training.

Textbox 3.2 Health Pilot

Health Pilot contributes to sustainability in health and care services and value creation in the Norwegian health industry. In Health Pilot, the public sector works with enterprises to create innovation based on the needs of patients, the population or the public health services. The goal is to bring new solutions to the patients and populations sooner. The Research Council of Norway is leading the work in close collaboration with the regional health authorities, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), represented by the organisation’s strategic research agency (KSF), and Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (SIVA) on the calls for proposals and subsequent evaluations. Innovation Norway is also contributing to the work. The cooperation is organised through a reference group that helps to ensure that the scheme addresses clear needs, own strategies and that the actors take responsibility for mobilisation and the further development of the scheme. Health Pilot has already contributed to more dialogue and interaction between the health industry and health services and mobilised applicants for this and other relevant schemes. Health Pilot will achieve multiple goals at the same time because the scheme facilitates big collaborative projects aimed at resolving concrete challenges by mobilising across several services levels, disciplines and sectors. Research is insufficiently integrated into services

Evidence-based practice is based on clinical and practice-based research. Moreover, participation in research and discipline development is important in order to recruit and retain all groups of health personnel across service levels, in somatic as well as mental health and substance abuse services. The Government wants discipline development and research to be a realistic possibility and career path for all professions in the health and care services.

Clinical studies are not sufficiently integrated into clinical practice and patient treatment, and one of the ways in which this becomes evident is that the systems used for treatment purposes are not compatible with research needs. National and local medical quality registers and research registers are used in some of the clinical research carried out in hospitals. In this context, better correspondence between definitions of variables, more automated reporting and better data sharing procedures and cooperation are required. Clinical research will become a more integral part of patient treatment as part of the follow-up of the National Action Plan for Clinical Trials 2021–2025.

Increased use of personalised medicine will make advanced decision support tools and analysis and interpretation of register data part of the patient treatment. Research trials as part of the patient care pathway represent a great potential for developing new diagnostic and treatment methods. However, broader application of personalised medicine within different disciplines and areas of technology will require expertise, infrastructure, better ICT solutions, cross-sector collaboration and better integration of research and treatment. The Ministry of Health and Care Services will therefore present a new national strategy for personalised medicine in the course of 2022.

Better knowledge through research is key to developing the health and care services of the future. However, there is a great need for knowledge in municipal health and care services and the county dental health services. The amount of research in and for the municipal health and care services and county dental health services is not proportional to the need for knowledge and collaboration in the increasingly complex municipal services. A stronger knowledge base will help to improve municipal planning and development and achieve better prioritisation as well as new, good solutions in the health and care services. More research will thus strengthen the quality of services, which is required to tackle long-term challenges such as new user groups and the growing elderly population. General practitioners (GPs) and other health and social service personnel working in GP practices play an important role in health-promotion and preventive work. Research on the role of the GP service in this work should therefore be facilitated. Closer cooperation between the GP service and universities and university colleges could contribute to more research being conducted in the municipal health and care services. The Health&Care21 Advisory Board took the initiative to a study by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities’ (KS) strategic research agency (KSF) in order to facilitate more and better organised research relevant to the municipalities’ knowledge needs.29 It is an important precondition for more research in and for the municipal health and care services that the municipalities themselves prioritise dedicating resources to this purpose and take steps to put a good structure in place.

Research-based knowledge output on mental health and substance abuse over the past 20 years has been considerable. However, further research is needed both on prevention and on the actual patient groups. For some mental disorders, we also lack knowledge about which treatment is most effective. There is a potential for improving implementation of evidence-based practice throughout the services, as well as for strengthening cross-service collaboration in mental health and substance abuse services. The Government will present an escalation plan for mental health and a substance abuse prevention and treatment reform where evidence-based practice will be a key aspect.

Textbox 3.3 Unikom

Unikom is a network for all parties with an interest in how the municipal sector, universities, research institutes and other organisations can cooperate to arrive at good, research-based solutions for the municipalities. There are currently 16 contract-based collaborations/partnerships between municipalities and academia. One of these is TRD3.0, which is a partnership between Trondheim municipality and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). In 2021, Trondheim municipality reached out to see whether anybody was interested in establishing contact between parties involved in or interested in such collaboration. This initiative developed into what is now referred to as the Unikom network. In collaboration with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), an overview of partnerships has been prepared and results and experience collated.

The municipalities that take a leading role in the municipality-university partnerships/municipal clusters are often big urban municipalities, but there are exceptions to this rule. The number of municipalities and academic institutions taking part in the partnerships vary from a single municipality collaborating with one university to Kunnskapskommunen HelseOmsorg Vest, where nine municipalities are taking part in a cluster collaboration with a total of seven different knowledge institutions, with Bergen acting as the engine among the municipalities involved. Better use of health data

Access to collated information about large populations across health registers and biobanks facilitates epidemiological research, allows for exploratory analysis and could make it easier to identify appropriate patient groups for clinical studies. However, gaining access to health data for research purposes can require a lot of time and resources, particularly when it comes to aligning data from several sources. We nevertheless need to facilitate utilisation of the wide range of health data sources available, such as central health registers, medical quality registers and population-based health surveys etc. SAMINOR, The Population-based Study on Health and Living Conditions in Regions with Sami and Norwegian Populations, is one example. Health data also need to be made available for research through quality-assured data products and flexible analysis services. In some areas, for example mental health, we also need more and better quality indicators and better management data.

The Government will help to make Norway’s large quantities of valuable health data more easily available for research, innovation and business development in the best interests of patients and the general population. The Health Data Service will therefore be further developed as a national solution to achieve an overall solution for overview of and access to public health data. The Ministry of Health and Care Services has distributed for consultation a proposal to give the Health Data Service decision-making powers to help to make the processing of applications simpler and more efficient. The Health Data Service is already contributing to the processing of applications and their case processing by providing information about registers and the application process, a common application form, a variable explorer, a file transfer service, a common application receipt service and an application guide. Work to consider alternatives to the Health Analysis Platform is under way. This includes making use of existing infrastructure in the university and university college sector, with the Health Data Service filling a national access control and data disclosure function, whereby data can be transferred directly from the registers to researchers’ analysis spaces in the infrastructures.

The Health&Care21 Monitor is a system for following up the previous long-term plan for research and higher education, and it could be an important aid in seeing the links between research topics and burden of disease. The monitor can be further developed to provide an overview and form a basis for analysing priorities, for example in the field of public health. More value creation from investments in life sciences and health research

Health research and life sciences provide a foundation for better understanding life, ecosystems and animal, plant and human health. More knowledge can lead to innovation and business development, allowing expert communities to create new and profitable knowledge-based jobs all over Norway. At the same time, industrial and business development depends on good cooperation between a broad range of actors across sectors, disciplines and national borders. Education and research are important parts of this cooperation. Innovation and business development processes are often time-consuming and capital-intensive, as strict requirements must be met to document that products are safe and effective.

Expertise and necessary facilities should be available to start-up enterprises that embark on test production and upscaling both in and outside the public research institutions. We could miss out on industrialisation and value creation at home if enterprises choose to move away from Norway to start their production.

The international health industry invests heavily in research and innovation.30 The Government wants to attract international capital and expertise and will therefore facilitate industry-funded clinical trials, for example through the NorTrials partnership. Moreover, Norwegian business and industry and Norwegian research communities must use the opportunities offered by the EU Health Programme, EU4Health, and relevant Horizon Europe partnerships and projects. Our research and innovation communities in the fields of health and life sciences must become more attractive partners for Norwegian and international business and industry players.

3.2.2 Measures and follow-up

The Government expects universities, university colleges, hospital trusts, regional health authorities and research institutes that receive public basic funding to follow up the thematic prioritisation of health and help to meet the knowledge and skills needs described above within their capabilities and areas of responsibility.

The Government will:

  • give particular priority to the following areas of research and research-driven innovation:

    • sustainable health services, for example through Health Pilot

    • life sciences

    • personalised medicine

    • gender differences in health with a particular focus on women’s health

    • interdisciplinary research in a One Health perspective

    • cross-sector research focusing on aging

    • sustainable food systems, including the mutual influence in different links of and across value chains, taking account of the One Health perspective

    • research on, in and about the municipal health and care services

  • give particular priority to the following areas in higher education and skills:

    • work to improve quality and increase capacity in clinical training placements in the municipalities, among other things through follow-up of the bilateral cooperation agreement between the Government and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS)

    • professional disciplines with a bearing on personnel challenges in the health and care services, particular in the fields of mental health and substance abuse services

    • decentralised and flexible education

  • give particular priority to the following areas in infrastructure and digitalisation:

    • further develop the Health Data Service as a national function for application processing and access to health data, while re-using existing analysis services

    • consider the need for data about groups and risk factors, obtaining and linking data from population studies and health registers, and further developing the use of burden of disease analyses

    • biobanks and population studies

  • present a new national strategy for personalised medicine in the course of 2022

  • describe the content and way forward for a public health knowledge system in the 2023 white paper on public health

  • continue to develop research infrastructure for municipal health and care services as part of the work on the national health and cooperation plan

3.3 Climate, the environment and energy

We have to develop new climate and environmentally friendly solutions to ensure a sustainable future. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that we must act now if we are to have any hope of meeting our obligations under the Paris Agreement. Rapid and significant emission reductions, more clean energy, better resource utilisation and climate adaptation require us to develop and test a broad range of climate measures and technologies across all sectors, while conserving our ecosystems at the same time.31 Over time, Norway has pursued a policy that has contributed to economic progress while also addressing conservation of natural resources and ecosystems. According to the OECD, Norway is on track to achieve most of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Norway is well positioned to carry out necessary restructuring while also stimulating new value creation and sustainable business development. We have strong research and innovation communities, abundant natural and environmental resources and a trust-based society that make an equitable transition possible. We must make better use of these advantages than we are doing at present if we are to achieve our climate and environmental goals. To come up with the best possible solutions, we must base our efforts on knowledge and skills, higher education and high-quality research.

Sustainable and equitable transition is not only a question of new knowledge about resources, technology and natural diversity. Climate challenges must also be tackled using knowledge about how people understand their cultural and natural environment and make decisions based on the cultural, societal, linguistic and historical conditions under which they live. This requires a comprehensive and integrated approach where social sciences, the humanities and other relevant disciplines must be included in research and education of relevance to climate and environmental issues. In order to address diversity, equality, consideration for indigenous peoples, social justice and good health, we need more knowledge about the social and economic consequences of activities and measures intended to resolve climate and natural challenges. Then we can ensure that the green transition is both effective and fair.

3.3.1 Main challenges and knowledge needs Integrated management on the environment’s terms

The need for a comprehensive and rapid transition to a sustainable future requires policy instruments and measures in different parts of society to be seen in conjunction with each other. We need to know what the ecosystems can withstand, what consequences different restructuring measures will have, and what changes we must prepare for in future. Research-based scenarios and projections showing probable developments in the state of the climate and environment are a key factor in this work. Such scenarios and projections are developed for the climate, but are inadequate and fragmented when it comes to natural diversity, ecosystems and other environmental resources.

We need to develop more knowledge about nature-based solutions and measures that benefit the climate as well as nature. We also need to know what we can do to limit harmful activity in nature and restore damaged nature. National natural capital accounts developed in line with the UN standard for natural capital accounting will be used to systematise knowledge about the extent and status of nature and ecosystem services and help us to make better decisions to promote sustainable development.

Sustainable natural and environmental management requires knowledge about the financial and cultural value of nature and the environment for society. Indigenous peoples, local communities and business and industry must all be taken into consideration. Mountain areas, outlands fields and the sea are subject to different forms of development, among other things relating to energy production, mineral extraction, aquaculture facilities, nature-based tourism and building of holiday cabins. New knowledge is important to find future solutions for sustainable land use that takes account of the environment, business and industry, and the people affected. Effective and fair transition to a sustainable low-emission society

Norway is well positioned for the transition to a low-emission society. We have abundant access to renewable land and marine resources. We have industrial and technological expertise, access to critical raw materials and infrastructure, and decades of experience of energy production and processing. While we are in a favourable position, there is still a long way to go before we achieve the climate goals. Knowledge and skills, research and technology development are key factors in achieving climate and environmental goals and ensuring a fair transition, as well as in contributing to business development and increased value creation for society. Knowledge development, innovation and education are therefore key features of the Government’s Green Industrial Initiative published in 2022.32

The recent energy situation in Norway and Europe illustrates how important it is to increase the amount of renewable energy available. Norway has large offshore areas with good wind resources that have the potential to become an important source of renewable energy for Norway and the rest of Europe. Many of these areas are only suitable for floating wind turbines. Unlike bottom fixed wind turbines, which represent an established technology, floating wind turbines are still an immature and significantly more expensive technology. The Government will facilitate large-scale investments in offshore wind power to help to provide power to people and enterprises all over Norway. A great deal of research is needed in relation to the industrialisation and commercialisation of the value chain for offshore wind power, integration of offshore wind power plants in the power system and offshore area management. We also need knowledge about the environmental effects of offshore wind power and coexistence with fisheries. The general knowledge base on offshore wind power also needs strengthening.

The oil and gas sector is responsible for more than a quarter of Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the country’s second greatest source of emissions, second only to the transport sector. The Government will, in cooperation with the industry, work to reduce emissions from oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf by 50 per cent by 2030 and to net zero in 2050. In order to reach these targets, the industry will have to use solutions with high abatement costs. However, research on and development of emission-reduction technologies and solutions will help to reduce these costs. At the same time, petroleum-related supplier industries and related strong research communities possess expertise, knowledge and technology that will be required in business development in connection with the green transition. Research and development related to the petroleum industry are discussed in more detail under the thematic priority oceans and coastal areas.

Hydrogen can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly as well as increase value creation and employment in Norway. The Government will contribute to building a coherent value chain for hydrogen produced with low or no emissions, where production, distribution and use are developed in parallel. In order to succeed, we need research and technology development to reduce costs and increase energy efficiency throughout the value chain for hydrogen in line with the Government’s ambitions for a Green Industrial Initiative.33 We need research and development relating to safety, integration of hydrogen into the existing energy system and framework conditions. International research collaboration and participation in the EU’s research and innovation programmes are key aspects of this work.

Different forms of bioenergy account for an important part of the energy sector’s potential for global emission cuts. Norway has significant unutilised bioresources that can be used for energy purposes while at the same time increasing value creation and employment. It is important to generate knowledge about where these resources can be used to maximise the environmental benefit.

About 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Norway come from the building and construction industry, which is also the country’s number one source of waste. There is also a considerable potential for improving energy efficiency, particularly in existing buildings. The building and construction industry therefore has an important role to play if we are to achieve our climate and environmental goals. We need knowledge about effective ways of reducing this industry’s climate and environmental footprint and its energy requirements.

Batteries are considered a core technology in the transition to renewable energy, particularly in the transport sector. Batteries are also important to stabilise the power grid, energy supply and energy storage, which also represents industrial opportunities for Norway. European and other international battery initiatives set important guidelines for Norway’s national battery strategy, which was presented in June 2022. A key strategic objective for the EU is to develop a battery industry of its own. Norwegian industrial enterprises are already producing input factors, products and services for several parts of the complex battery value chain, and knowledge of materials has been developed over decades in close cooperation between the processing industry and academia. Norwegian expert environments are now building on this knowledge to develop state-of-the-art battery materials. The planned growth in the Norwegian battery industry means that major long-term investments are needed in expertise throughout the education system, from craft certificates to higher education and research.34

The Government will continue its work to promote carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) as an important contribution to achieving the climate target, establishing a new green industry and exporting technology. It is essential in order to make CCUS a cost-effective climate measure to engage in research and demonstrations to reduce the technology costs of CCUS and make the technologies for capture, transport, utilisation and storage of CO2 more competitive. New technology will support the Norwegian full-scale demonstration project Longship, which involves carbon capture from cement production (Norcem) and waste incineration (Hafslund Oslo Celsio), as well as transport and storage of CO2 in subsea geological formations (Northern Lights). CO2 can also be used as an input factor in industry by contributing to the inclusion of products containing carbon in the circular economy, thus cutting emissions and creating new industrial activity at the same time. The need for CCUS research relates to the development of new technologies and upscaling to commercial value chains, new business models, market models, and framework conditions for carbon capture, utilisation and storage. More knowledge about society and the environment is also required in connection with CCUS.

Norway’s CCS investments mostly concern the Longship project, Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM), which tests and qualifies new carbon capture technologies, and the research and demonstration programme CLIMIT. Commercial projects are also facilitated by offering storage. Since 2021, the CLIMIT programme has also covered direct air capture of CO2, which may become necessary to reduce the CO2 content in the atmosphere in the long term. A summary of the current knowledge status is needed in connection with direct air capture, including energy requirements, possibilities for improving energy efficiency and land use. Robust methods must be developed for life-cycle analyses that can show the climate effect of capturing and reusing CO2. Research is also needed on policy instruments and to identify barriers to creating a well-functioning market.

Everything from building and construction work to climate adaptation, natural capital accounting and climate projections depend on accurate and accessible geodata. Research and development is essential in the further development of methods for collecting, processing and facilitating the use of our shared geographical information. The UN estimates that as much as 80 per cent of all data can be linked to a geographical location. There is considerable potential for better and more efficient use of these data.

Satellites play a crucial role in establishing a factual basis for knowledge-based climate and environmental policies. Many of the essential climate variables described in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports are largely based on satellite measurements. International cooperation is the cornerstone of the Government’s focus on space-related activities. Environmental crime, the Government’s Climate and Forest Initiative, fisheries crime and the Government’s Blue Justice Initiative are examples of areas where Norway has taken a leading role internationally and where satellite data are an important tool. At the same time, small satellite technology is opening up new possibilities for solutions at the national level.

Textbox 3.4 EU missions in the field of climate, the environment and energy

Norwegian research communities are taking part in the full range of EU missions, and four of the five EU missions are closely linked to challenges in the field of climate, the environment and energy. The four missions ‘Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities’, ‘Adaptation to Climate Change’, ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ and ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters’ are intended to resolve ambitious, demanding and complex environmental challenges by 2030. The missions will trigger broad engagement, receive funding from different sectors and interact with changes to regulatory regimes, legislation and policies. Furthermore, these complex challenges cannot be resolved without interdisciplinary knowledge development. This will require the involvement of a broad range of actors, including research communities, educational institutions, business and industry, the public sector, the voluntary sector and the population at large. The relevant ministries can contribute to regulatory and policy development that support the objectives. It is important that the population participates, as new knowledge and technology are set to be introduced. It is a prerequisite for achieving our goal that the population trusts research results and is willing to contribute to the green transition by changing their behaviour. It is also important that Norwegian efforts are well coordinated in order to ensure good cooperation between communities, and that national and EU policy instruments supplement and reinforce each other. Zero-emission transport and comprehensive land use planning

Well-functioning transport systems are needed to transport people and goods in a safe and efficient manner, and they are crucial to the competitiveness of business and industry.35 At the same time, a significant share of emission cuts in the time ahead will have to be made in the transport sector. Development, operations and maintenance of transport infrastructure occupy large areas and have negative consequences for the climate and the environment. Norway has come a long way in the electrification of its passenger car fleet. Norwegian industry and the public sector are nevertheless facing demanding restructuring, particularly in freight transport and aviation where technology development is still in an early stage.

Research and innovation are crucial if we are to succeed in achieving a quick and cost-efficient transition to zero-emission solutions for all forms of transport. Public administration and business and industry both depend on new knowledge and a rapid transition to new transport technology that can produce better vehicles, contribute to efficient use of zero-emission solutions and make better use of the existing transport infrastructure. We also need the costs and environmental impact of maintenance and infrastructure development to be as low as possible. Moreover, we depend on behavioural change, for example when it comes to using transport solutions such as public transport, efficient logistics and shared mobility.

Transport21 is a strategy for research, development and innovation in the transport sector. Important research topics that can help to speed up the transition to emission-free transport of people and cargo have been identified in connection with this strategy. These topics include infrastructure for zero-emission solutions, energy efficiency, biofuel and hydrogen use for transport purposes, logistics hubs, smart delivery and shared solutions. We also need new knowledge and technology for more environmentally friendly and integrated transport planning, such as simulation tools and new methods for optimising and utilising capacity. Risk mitigation, piloting of late-stage technology development and innovative public procurements are crucial to speed up technology development and contribute to early market introduction. Enova, PILOT-E and PILOT-T have been among the key policy instruments in this context. Further developing the supplier industry is crucial if we are to succeed nationally, but also to be able to take advantage of the opportunities for value creation represented by the growing international market for innovative mobility solutions. According to Transport21, Norway is well positioned to succeed in developing new integrated digital management systems at system levels (integrated ITS), artificial intelligence, big data, the internet of things and autonomous systems.

Close cooperation between research communities, the authorities and businesses is important in order to take advantage of the opportunities and succeed in gearing efforts to areas where Norway has competitive advantages and particular needs.

At the same time, it is important that the policy instruments help to increase the number of new graduates with expertise in technology relevant to the transport sector, as such expertise will be in considerable demand in the years ahead.

The majority of the Norwegian population live in towns and cities. The purpose of developing ‘smart cities’ is often to improve inhabitants’ quality of life, make optimum use of shared resources and reduce the cities’ climate and environmental problems. Urban climate and environmental problems may relate to energy, mobility, operations and maintenance, development of public services and business development. Urban densification and transformation of areas heralds a need for new knowledge to ensure environmentally friendly urban development that also safeguards the population’s health and quality of life. New technology and knowledge can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased resource utilisation, a circular economy where it is possible to reuse materials, more environmentally friendly mobility and delivery of goods, and adaptation to climate change. In towns and cities all over the world, technology is tested and put to use in various public and private services. There are pavements and roads made from solar cell panels, waste bins that send alerts when they need emptying, air quality monitoring, new transport solutions that reduce the need for passenger cars and vans, food is grown in hydroponic systems or on rooftops, and meat can be industrially manufactured. The continued development of national research and innovation must be seen in conjunction with the Horizon Europe partnership Driving Urban Transitions and the EU mission for climate-neutral and smart cities.

A comprehensive land use and societal planning process should promote good living conditions for people and help to make cities, towns and locations attractive. Cities need more green spaces with trees and open watercourses, known as blue-green infrastructure, to deal with the increases in drought, heat and surface water that climate change will bring. We therefore need knowledge about methods for establishing and preserving green areas and important cultural history environments, Urban agriculture can help to develop the towns and cities of the future in a more circular and sustainable direction in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We have to adapt to a changing climate

Climate change poses challenges across sectors, actors and areas of society, and has an impact on all the Sustainable Development Goals.36 The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now believes that climate change has a greater and more far-reaching impact on nature than previously assumed.37 It is therefore more urgent than ever to facilitate climate resilient development, which means to combine strategies to adapt to climate change with action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon absorption in order to support sustainable development.

In Norway, climate change will require us to adapt our land use, energy production, transport, agriculture, cultural environment and nature management, among other things. It is important to have a good knowledge base on the overall consequences of climate change when planning solutions to reduce emissions as well as risk and vulnerability. We have to obtain and facilitate a good scientific knowledge base of climate data and develop robust climate projections and risk assessments. Sustainable and climate-adapted agriculture

The most important function of agriculture is to ensure sustainable production of healthy and safe food in sufficient quantities based on Norway’s natural resources. We must therefore preserve the arable soil and ecosystems on which our agriculture depends. At the same time, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon absorption. Technology development and new knowledge play an important role in the further development of a forward-looking climate and environmentally friendly agricultural sector and will make important contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and increasing the amount of carbon that is absorbed and bound in soil and forest.

Agriculture accounts for about 9 per cent of Norway’s total emissions. Knowledge is needed about how to cut emissions while improving food security. More knowledge is also needed about forms of operation that promote biological diversity, soil health and carbon storage in the soil. Good soil health means that the physical, chemical and biological soil components work together in an optimal manner, both in terms of production and other soil functions. It is important to consider soil health when the climate is changing. Norway is one of the few countries in Europe to have a dedicated soil health programme that sets out a proposed implementation plan.38

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service estimates that forests and other ecosystems on land can contribute more than a third of the emission cuts necessary to achieve the 2-degree target by 2030 if they are sustainably managed. New knowledge can shed light on how we can exploit the potential for increased CO2 absorption and carbon storage and how we can use raw materials from Norwegian forests in the most climate-friendly manner possible, not least in order to compensate for emissions from other sectors.

Norway has huge forest resources and a potential for increased logging. However, this must take place within the limits of sustainability and in a manner that safeguards endangered species and addresses other important environmental considerations. At the same time, forest-based value chains can make a significantly higher contribution to the Norwegian economy than is the case at present if we increase the profitable processing of these resources here in Norway.

A high level of research and innovation is important to make the forest and wood industry more competitive and develop a forest industry that makes a positive contribution to the climate by processing renewable and residual raw materials. New knowledge will form the basis for further developing sustainable and profitable forestry that strikes a good, knowledge-based balance between forestry activities and climate and environmental considerations.

Climate change directly impacts agriculture, which must therefore be prepared to deal with a climate that is changing towards higher temperatures, significantly longer periods without frost, extreme precipitation, drought and changes in biodiversity. Climate change can pose challenges such as new plant and animal diseases, new and harmful alien species, fewer pollinators, more frequent and extensive forest fires, floods and generally more demanding production conditions, including highly demanding conditions for reindeer husbandry and grazing. On the other hand, a warmer climate and longer growing season also brings a potential for increased production and new plants. Nature-based solutions may help to prepare agriculture for climate change, for example by protecting and restoring bogs and wetland and opening up streams and rivers. New technology, digitalisation and development of climate-adapted plants, animal husbandry, and knowledge of agronomy and new forms of operation are some of the factors that will be crucial to climate adaptation of agriculture and forestry.

A changing agriculture and forestry industry will also mean a growing need to improve access to relevant expertise by strengthening recruitment to agricultural studies and further developing relevant study programmes at all levels. Increased circularity and sustainable bioeconomy

A more sustainable economy will require us to utilise resources and secondary raw materials far more efficiently than we do at present. By changing to a more circular economy, we will help to reduce the loss of natural and environmental resources and prevent weakening of the natural resource base. Using more secondary raw materials will help to improve resource utilisation throughout the value chain. It is also essential to the transition to a circular economy that environmental toxins and hazardous substances are removed from circulation. The circular economy can be divided into two material cycles: one for non-renewable resources and one for renewable biological resources.

Products, components and materials whose characteristics make them suited for re-use and easy to repair, modernise or recycle circulate in the cycle for non-renewable resources. We need research we can use as a basis for organising legal and industrial policy instruments in an expedient manner. Research and innovation in the circular economy must extend their perspective from isolated to integrated approaches, from the linear to the circular, from waste to secondary raw materials, and from fossil to renewable solutions. It is therefore important that the policy agencies develop the green circular economy as a focus area across disciplines and sectors, build a common knowledge base with business and industry organisations and other stakeholders, and cooperate on coordinating their efforts.

Increased use of renewable biological resources at the expense of fossil carbon in the renewable resource cycle will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The development of new knowledge and technology in the fields of biotechnology and industrial processing technology, among other areas, will make it possible to exploit more of the many renewable biological resources, including those considered waste today, safely and effectively. However, we need to know more about how to recover materials more efficiently while also removing environmental toxins and hazardous substances from circulation.

There is a great potential for increasing utilisation of various biological residual raw materials and side streams. Everything from fertiliser and sludge to production waste and food waste can potentially be reintroduced into the food chain as food, feed, fertiliser and soil improvement agents – provided that the substances are safe. Several of these resources are also well suited as raw materials for bioenergy purposes. Research, innovation and technology development are therefore needed to exploit the potential for nutrients, energy products and other valuable biochemical components from bioresources.

We also see industrial communities based on complementary collaboration emerging. The enterprises collaborate to utilise each other’s residual materials, waste streams, excess heat or other resources, thus contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact. Targeted knowledge development will link the value chains for renewable resources in industrial communities more closely with the value chains for material cycles, for example by producing algae or other microorganisms that bind carbon and utilise residual heat released from processing industries.

Textbox 3.5 Sustainable feed mission

Our food security is under pressure due to population growth, increasing pressure on areas and resources, climate change and less reliable supply lines. At the same time, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions increases demand for renewable biomass and products that provide climate and environmental benefits. More efficient and circular systems offer a great potential for strengthening Norway’s food production and improving resource utilisation while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our environmental footprint. However, this will require new knowledge, better coordination across sectors, and a common, targeted effort to apply the new knowledge.

In the present long-term plan, the Government is launching two missions. This represents a brand new research policy instrument in a Norwegian context (see Chapter 6 for a more detailed discussion). The goal for this mission is that all feed for farmed fish and livestock shall come from sustainable sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Climate and Environment, the Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Ministry of Education and Research will be among the ministries involved.

A sustainable feed mission is intended to contribute to new innovations and technological solutions being implemented. This mission will be an important contribution to achieving the targets Norway has set itself for the climate, environment, food production, employment and value creation. It will also support the common European goal of increased self-sufficiency and sustainable food systems in Europe. The final wording of the main objective, quantification and further developing the sub-goals will take place during the design and implementation phase. Prevent emission and spread of substances harmful to the environment

We need more knowledge about how substances harmful to health and the environment are dispersed in the environment, including the significance of different sources and routes of dispersion. We also need more knowledge about the cocktail effect of substances harmful to health and the environment and how these substances affect individuals, populations and ecosystems, both in isolation and in combination with other impact factors such as climate change. There is a lot we do not know about the prevalence of substances harmful to health and the environment in the Norwegian population. In particular, we need knowledge about the extent to which different groups are exposed to such substances, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and different social classes. International research cooperation and knowledge about conditions in other parts of the world will be important in this work.

We also need more knowledge about the effects of exposure to substances harmful to health and the environment, including how environmental toxins accumulate in the body, illness and quality of life. It is also important to consider how different groups in the population are affected by these effects. More knowledge about climate change in the polar regions

Knowledge about climate change and environmental impact in the polar regions is strategically important to managing an environment in rapid change, and it is vital to society’s development, climate adaptation and contingency planning in the High North. Climate change is progressing particularly quickly in the Arctic. Research on polar ecosystems will thus yield valuable knowledge about future development in other areas. That is why we need efficient surveying and environmental monitoring. We also need management-oriented knowledge about the environmental consequences of commercial activities in the High North. Moreover, we need more knowledge about the effects of environmental toxins, ocean acidification and the sea ice decline in combination with increasing human activity in the polar regions, as well as about their overall impact on ecosystems.

Svalbard has great geopolitical importance, in addition to being an important platform for research and higher education and for international cooperation. Norway should remain a strong polar research nation, and there is a particular potential for more Norwegian research activities in Ny-Ålesund. Svalbard is also an important starting point for research in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

The rapid changes in Arctic ecosystems on land may have significant consequences for how nature is used in the High North, not least for reindeer husbandry, but also for forestry, hunting and fishing, tourism and outdoor pursuits. Good management of Arctic areas in future will require good knowledge and projections of development to provide a good basis for societal planning. It will also be important to know how the management system can safeguard the relevant interests of the current users of nature in polar areas.

The Antarctic has a key position in the global climate system, not least when it comes to rising sea levels. Intensified research efforts and more observation data will be crucial in improving our understanding of climate change in the Antarctic. The Norwegian research station Troll at Queen Maud Land in the Antarctic constitutes a unique platform for developing such knowledge and puts Norway in a good position to contribute to the collective international effort to generate knowledge about the Antarctic.

3.3.2 Measures and follow-up

The Government expects universities, university colleges, hospital trusts, regional health authorities and research institutes that receive public basic funding to follow up the thematic prioritisation of climate, the environment and energy and help to meet the knowledge and skills needs described above within their capabilities and areas of responsibility.

The Government will:

  • give particular priority to the following areas of research and research-driven innovation:

    • green and fair transition to sustainable and forward-looking agriculture, business and industry, and civil society

    • social and cultural sustainability in the green transition

    • ecosystems in Norway, including nature’s tolerance, potential tipping points, the value of nature and sustainable land management

    • renewable energy solutions, low-emission technology and carbon capture and storage, including piloting

    • circular solutions and safe use of bioresources across industries, sectors and disciplines

    • the High North, Arctic and Antarctic

  • give particular priority to the following areas in higher education and skills:

    • relevant programmes of professional study and discipline programmes in the field of climate, the environment and energy

    • decentralised and flexible education

    • interdisciplinarity and humanist perspectives in higher education of relevance to climate, the environment and energy

  • give particular priority to the following areas in infrastructure and digitalisation:

    • further development of an efficient and accessible environmental data system for research and management

  • launch a mission for the purpose of ensuring that all feed for farmed fish and livestock comes from sustainable sources

3.4 Enabling and industrial technologies

Enabling and industrial technologies have a transformative power to help to make a sustainable society a reality through green and digital transition. The Government will therefore prioritise these areas of technology.

Enabling technologies are basic, advanced areas of technology that enable the development of more efficient, profitable and sustainable solutions, products and processes. Examples of such enabling technology areas include information and communications technology (ICT), nanotechnology and biotechnology. These technologies comprise a number of narrower areas, such as artificial intelligence, sensor technology and gene technology. Enabling technologies improve our understanding and use of basic elements of natural and man-made materials and systems. The knowledge gained influences how we produce food and medicines, how we process natural raw materials into suitable and more environmentally friendly materials, and how we can understand, safeguard and use large quantities of data and complex systems.

Industrial technologies are advanced, generic technology platforms that build on and make use of enabling technologies. The platforms make it possible to develop advanced materials, production processes and components, for example through robotisation, 3D printing, biorefining, biocatalysis and industrial fermentation. High-cost countries such as Norway have to manufacture goods more efficiently than countries where cheap labour is readily available. In order to be cost-efficient and competitive, production must become increasingly automated and flexible.

Basic research on enabling and industrial technologies paves the way for concrete application in the long-term plan’s other priority areas. Such application of technologies, and the introduction of mature technologies, are largely integrated into the long-term plan’s other priorities and objectives. The pace of technological development is very fast, and research institutions must therefore cooperate closely with business and industry.

Textbox 3.6 From basic research to a new product at record speed

The Covid-19 pandemic had taken hold in Norway by 20 March 2020, when Professor Magnar Bjørås at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) received a troubling message from St. Olavs Hospital. The hospital was running out of coronavirus tests, and it was impossible to get hold of more. They asked Professor Bjørås if he could help them.

Bjørås contacted Associate Professor Sulalit Bandyopadhyay. They had never worked together before, but within a week, the two scientists had developed a new RNA isolation kit, and pilot production was up and running. St. Olavs Hospital received the reagents, which proved to work well. Production was quickly scaled up, and the test was soon approved and taken into use by many Norwegian hospitals.

The success story of the coronavirus test was enabled by decades of basic molecular biology research at NTNU and Oslo University Hospital (OUS)/the University of Oslo. Research on related disciplines, such as nanoparticle technology and virology, and proximity to diagnostic units at St. Olavs and OUS were other critical factors in the quick development of this test.

The coronavirus test is a good example of how long-term basic research and interdisciplinary collaboration can quickly produce an innovation of great importance to the population, the health service and society when the need is great and clearly formulated. This innovation is also a good example of how strong basic research communities represent an important part of our contingency planning for unknown events.

3.4.1 Main challenges and knowledge needs Developing technologies to increase value creation and sustainability

Information and communications technology (ICT)

ICT is no longer merely a technology. It is as much a transformative driving force that forms the basis for new business models and applications in all areas of society. ICT is a necessary element in most new technologies. Business and industry invest by far the most R&D in ICT, and they emphasise development activities. There is a potential for the top ICT research communities to make even better use of the EU framework programmes.

Textbox 3.7 Centre for Computational and Data Science

The sustainable development of society increasingly depends on knowledge obtained from data and large quantities of data. That is why the University of Oslo established the Centre for Computational and Data Science.

The centre is intended to strengthen the university’s scientific standing and position Norway on the international arena by bringing together expert communities from different departments and disciplines. The centre will contribute to better and more efficient use of data in public management and business development through research on areas such as artificial intelligence, language technology, statistical methodology, machine learning and deep learning. In addition to facilitating development and use of digital resources in research, business and industry, the centre will operate meeting places and develop cooperation between research communities in academia, business and industry, and public sector entities.

The University of Oslo (UiO)


Biotechnology has in many ways become a mature technology, and it has been introduced in many areas of application. The public R&D communities account for more than half of all R&D activities in the biotechnology area. The health trusts and regional health authorities are very active in biotechnology research, while the level of activity is low in the institute sector. The links between universities, university colleges, institutes, health trusts, regional health authorities, and business and industry could also have been better. There are strong ties and a strong institute sector in the fields of marine industries, agriculture and the food industry, but basic research should be strengthened. Biotechnology is a separate discipline, but disciplines such as medicine, biology, physics and chemistry are also well placed to engage in biotechnology. The biotechnology field enjoys good recruitment. Both biotechnology and life sciences have large, strong research communities that do relatively well in the competition for research funding at the national level, but they could have made better use of the opportunities offered by the EU framework programmes. Infrastructure investments are vital to success.


Nanotechnology and related innovation are becoming increasingly commercialised, often via small and medium-sized research-intensive enterprises. There are often close links between public R&D communities and enterprises, and a lot of radical innovation is taking place. At the national level, the universities, university colleges and institutes are driving forces in basic technology development, in interaction with and influenced by international expert communities and trends. These sectors also have great capacity to utilise research funding from national and international sources. National investment in nanotechnology infrastructure is important to maintain a high level of activity. Business and industry are responsible for more than half of all R&D in the nanotechnology area.

New advanced materials make for simpler and more efficient energy storage, which can improve access to affordable renewable energy in sufficient quantities to achieve a green transition. For example, advanced nanomaterials could help to reduce the use of pesticides and biocides in agriculture, while advanced biomaterials could contribute to more sustainable use of plastics.

Advanced industrial technologies

The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated how complex and vulnerable the global value chains had become. A more flexible technology capable of dealing with the vulnerabilities that arise when global value chains are disrupted must be developed.

Digitalisation and automation of production processes, in combination with advanced monitoring and sensor technology, will be important drivers for cutting emissions and increasing reuse of resources. 3D printing makes it possible to tailor products, thereby using less materials.

Technological convergence

The merging of different enabling technologies has revealed a need for more expertise on responsible technological development among technologists as well as in the humanities and social sciences.

Examples of relevant emerging and converging areas of technology include quantum technology and neurotechnology. Advances in neurotechnology have the potential to improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders and thus improve our health and welfare. The emergence of neurotechnology also brings ethical, legal and social challenges, however, these challenges must be taken into account when designing research efforts. The possibility to manipulate and control quantum effects at an increasingly detailed level by means of quantum technology offers new opportunities in communication, measurements and sensor, simulation and computer science. The development of quantum computing is expected to revolutionise the digital world and could impact global communication networks and internet security.

Textbox 3.8 Areas of technology in the Research Council of Norway

Figure 3.1 The Research Council’s 2021 R&D spending broken down by area of technology, in NOK million

Figure 3.1 The Research Council’s 2021 R&D spending broken down by area of technology, in NOK million

The Research Council of Norway

The Research Council does not have a separate programme dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI), but AI has been a key priority in its ICT programme, IKTPLUSS. Calculations from 2021 show that nearly 50 per cent of the funds the Research Council allocated to ICT went to projects on AI, robotics and information management. Responsible technology development

Socially responsible technology development

Rapid technological change can entail negative consequences and risks for individuals, society and the environment and contribute to social distancing, inequality and threats to security and human rights. A significant challenge going forward is how to enjoy the benefits of new technology while dealing with its potentially negative or excluding effects. This will require a broad, interdisciplinary approach that includes legal, ethical, societal and cultural perspectives.

Health, safety and the environment – ethical, legal and social aspects

Considerations for health, safety and the environment (HSE) and ethical, legal and social aspects (ELSA) are well integrated into the management of the Research Council of Norway’s portfolio for enabling technology, both through funding for dedicated projects and through requirements for their integration into technology development projects.

Textbox 3.9 Norwegian research centre for artificial intelligence innovation

A new centre for research on artificial intelligence and big data has been established. The centre is named Nemonoor and will be led by NTNU and SINTEF Digital. The centre’s objective is to develop ground-breaking theories, methods and technologies for using artificial intelligence in innovative industrial solutions in an effective and responsible manner.

Among other things, the centre will be working on:

  • challenges related to intelligent data platforms

  • analysis of large-scale sensor data

  • personalisation

  • massive language models for Scandinavian languages

  • the relationship between physical and digital systems


A key HSE policy in the development of advanced chemicals and materials is that they should be safe and sustainable by design. The European Commission is working on a framework to be used to define criteria for evaluating whether chemicals and materials can be deemed to be safe and sustainable by design. This framework can be used in the early stages of technology development projects’ design phase.

The National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence states that Norway shall lead the way in developing and using AI with respect for individual rights and freedoms.39 Artificial intelligence in Norway should be built on ethical principles, respect for privacy and good cyber security.

The work to ensure ethical and responsible development of artificial intelligence depends on international agreement and cooperation. The Norwegian principles harmonise with corresponding principles in the EU, OECD and UN.

Textbox 3.10 Norwegian-American artificial intelligence collaboration

Artificial intelligence can contribute to carbon capture and storage, smarter energy systems, better climate modelling and more personalised medicine. Norway has signed an agreement with the US Department of Energy to work more closely on research, innovation, education and ethical issues in the field.

The agreement facilitates collaboration in the form of common research and innovation projects, scientist and student exchanges, sharing of technology and equipment, joint education programmes and further development of ethical and responsible application of technology. In order to protect privacy, legal and technical solutions will ensure that data are shared in a responsible manner.

Large quantities of data and new types of supercomputers are now making it possible to use advanced artificial intelligence methods to carry out tasks that were previously impossible. This could contribute to breakthroughs in a number of areas, including carbon capture and storage, weather and climate supermodelling, development of new pharmaceuticals and personalised medicine. Better preconditions for developing and using technologies


Too few upper secondary pupils in Norway choose to specialise in natural science subjects and technology. The proportion of students in tertiary education who study natural sciences and technology is below the OECD average.40

The demand for labour with ICT skills is higher than the supply. Employers want employees with digital skills suitable for the occupation they are to enter, as well as people with specialised technology expertise.

In order to ensure that society’s need for expertise on artificial intelligence is met, higher education must offer programmes that provide the advanced artificial intelligence expertise that the different sectors need, as well as knowledge and skills in fundamental disciplines such as statistics, mathematics and informatics.

We see an increase in the use of foreign contract labour and outsourcing of ICT services to providers abroad to meet Norway’s need for digital expertise. This is often a sensible solution and the only way to obtain the capacity required. However, it can also make us more vulnerable and weaken our ability to safeguard our own security interests.

In a world where digital and hybrid threats are becoming increasingly common, digital security expertise is also vital. Surveys carried out by the Norwegian National Security Authority show that many enterprises have considerable room for improvement when it comes to awareness of and expertise on security.

Two-thirds of graduates from Norwegian PhD programmes are foreign nationals, and many of them may not be able to obtain security clearance. That means that they cannot work with classified information in enterprises that safeguard national security interests. The consequence of this is an increasing need to strengthen the education programmes and recruitment of personnel who can be granted security clearance in the enabling technologies in general and in digital security and cryptology in particular.


Norwegian research communities need access to necessary research infrastructure to be able to use the enabling technologies. The general needs for research infrastructure are discussed in Chapter 8. As far as enabling and industrial technologies are concerned, it is particularly important to have access to high-performance computing capacity. Most disciplines that use enabling technologies have a large and growing need for data storage and computing power.

In light of international developments, the Government deems it necessary to make a critical assessment of how the Norwegian technology infrastructure depends on systems and components manufactured and operated in societies whose transparency standards differ from those of Norway.

Regulatory framework and security

Clear legal framework conditions are important if Norway is to be able to contribute at the forefront of research in enabling and industrial technologies. Biotechnology and gene technology research is regulated at the national level by the Biotechnology Act and the Gene Technology Act and through international conventions.

Biotechnology and gene technology have gained much broader areas of application over the past 20 years, while the legal framework has largely remained the same. However, the Storting adopted a new Biotechnology Act in May 2020 that facilitates research and the introduction of gene therapy. Special Norwegian rules on trials of pharmaceutical products that contain genetically modified organisms have made Norway unattractive for research on gene therapies and technologies such as CRISPR and mRNA vaccines.

The Government therefore appointed a committee in November 2020 and tasked it with conducting a broad scientific review of the status, possibilities and regulatory framework for gene technology. The committee will submit its report by 1 December 2022. Its remit includes evaluating the Norwegian practice for evaluation and approval of GMO pharmaceuticals for clinical testing and, if relevant, propose amendments based on the evaluation.

The regulatory framework governing personal data imposes limitations on machine learning research. Consent is the most common way of obtaining legal access to personal data for use in artificial intelligence (AI). When personal data are collected based on a particular statutory provision, there is little scope for using the data for anything other than their original purpose. The exception to this rule is if there is a legal basis for the new use. Public sector bodies therefore have little opportunity to use the data they collect to analyse their own activities using AI. However, the EU’s upcoming Data Governance Act will allow the use of depersonalised data, subject to certain conditions, for research through the Health Analysis Platform and similar tools. This will allow us to meet the needs of research without compromising privacy.

Textbox 3.11 A breakthrough since the previous long-term plan

Proteins are essential to all life, and the shape of a protein determines its function. Experiments to determine the structure of proteins have previously been very difficult, and thus also expensive, to carry out. It is not uncommon for the advanced methods to take as long as a year, and it has normally cost as much as NOK 1 million to find a protein structure through experimental methods.

In 2020, however, something remarkable happened. The company DeepMind developed the AI algorithm AlphaFold, which can quickly predict the shape of new proteins on the basis of data from the Protein Data Bank. The algorithm had soon mapped all the proteins in the human body, and the process is now being repeated species by species.

In 2021, the journal Nature named AlphaFold the Method of the Year. DeepMind, which is a British company, made the algorithm openly available. The algorithms were soon installed on Norwegian infrastructure and made available to Norwegian research communities at the initiative of NORA (Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium), the University of Oslo’s University Center for Information Technology (USIT) and Sigma2. The programme is available to the entire research community and can be used to develop pharmaceuticals, among other things.

3.4.2 Measures and follow-up

The Government expects universities, university colleges, hospital trusts, regional health authorities and research institutes that receive public basic funding to follow up the thematic prioritisation of enabling and industrial technologies and help to meet the knowledge and skills needs described above within their capabilities and areas of responsibility.

The Government will:

  • give particular priority to the following areas of research and research-driven innovation:

    • basic research in areas necessary to the development of enabling and industrial technologies

    • artificial intelligence, quantum technology and neurotechnology

  • give particular priority to the following areas in higher education and skills:

    • necessary specialist expertise in emerging and converging technologies of particular strategic importance

    • more students from Norwegian education institutions taking doctoral degree programmes in technology

    • decentralised and flexible education

  • consider the follow-up of recommendations in the coming Official Norwegian Report from the gene technology committee on research and innovation activities

  • consider whether there are regulatory obstacles to the expedient and desirable use of artificial intelligence in the public and private sector

3.5 Societal security and civil preparedness

As mentioned in Chapter 1, we live in uncertain times with great changes taking place in society. Therefore, the Government wants to strengthen work on societal security and civil preparedness also through research, innovation and education. Societal security and civil preparedness is about society’s ability to prevent and deal with events that threaten fundamental values and functions and pose a risk to life and health.41 The best way to deal with a crisis is to have robust systems in place under normal conditions that can be upscaled in a crisis, and to have resources available all over the country. Crisis management must moreover be based on clear structures, division of responsibility and a regulatory framework, as well as sufficient knowledge and skills at all levels.42 In addition, we must follow up crises with research aimed at preventing further crises.43

Events that threaten fundamental values and functions can be triggered by natural disasters, pandemics, conflict and war, technical faults, human error or intentional actions. As the climate becomes warmer, unpredictable weather patterns develop where serious natural events will become more frequent. This challenges societal security and threatens food security and access to critical natural resources. Climate change in combination with increasing globalisation will also increase the risk of infectious diseases spreading. Changes to the world’s power systems in a situation where the global economy is closely interconnected and value chains are vulnerable increase the risk of conflict, and the consequences of conflicts become considerably more serious. This could have major consequences for societal security and civil preparedness. The population’s confidence that the supply systems for food, water, medication, vaccines and energy are robust and will function well in any situation is a prerequisite for societal security and for society’s social and political stability. In a time of crisis, the outcome will be determined by the resources and responses of the population and the public administration, business and industry, and civil society actors. Therefore, we need insight into how we can mobilise these parties in a crisis. We also need to know how we can communicate effectively with different groups of society and make them aware that they are part of our emergency response organisation.

New technology is being developed and introduced at a rapid pace. This opens opportunities, but can also pose challenges to national security and public security, as well as to the population’s fundamental right to protection of privacy. It is important that we introduce new technology in a secure manner, that the technology developed is secure, and that it is possible to prevent and prosecute crimes committed by means of new technologies. These digital security needs are growing rapidly as society’s critical infrastructure becomes increasingly reliant on digital value chains.

In recent decades, different threats have attracted our attention, including terrorism, pandemics, cyberattacks, war and serious natural events caused by climate change. We will continue to protect ourselves against these and other known threats. However, we must also make contingency plans to prepare for unknown and complex threats and crises, and build knowledge about how we can deal with a situation and put things right after a crisis. Societal security and civil preparedness is a complex field, characterised by a complex overall situation involving a number of risks and actors. A crisis can beget new crises or be closely linked to crises in other sectors, as the climate crisis has consequences for food security, migration and energy and security policies. Research and education play a crucial role in this context. We need to map the status of crises. We also need knowledge about how threats and crises develop and about the effects of different measures. Not least, we need to educate graduates to meet the needs of the future. Work on societal security and civil preparedness involves many disciplines and subject areas that must be seen in conjunction with each other. Strengthening trust in society, i.e. that people trust each other and the authorities, and that groups with different cultural backgrounds and affiliations join forces, is an important aspect of societal security and civil preparedness. An interdisciplinary approach must therefore also include perspectives from social sciences and the humanities. Norway is participating in societal security and civil preparedness collaboration under Horizon Europe and associated programmes. We also collaborate and share experience with the EU in our work on national guidelines for responsible international collaboration. We need interdisciplinarity and global cooperation in research as well as education to prepare for known and unknown threats.

3.5.1 Main challenges and knowledge needs Global health threats

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats to global health, food safety and modern medicine, as discussed under the priority health. Global trends such as population growth, urbanisation and increased travel could also make pandemics a more frequent occurrence, and this will in turn have consequences for societal security and civil preparedness. The interaction between public health, animal health, plant health, food production and the environment (the One Health approach) is a key aspect both of pandemics and of combating antibiotic resistance.

Action taken to limit pandemics can affect all sectors of society. We must therefore prepare to face pandemics by implementing knowledge-based measures with as limited negative effects as possible. This will require us to develop and improve knowledge systems that yield new knowledge in a crisis more quickly. The Coronavirus Commission44 and the Holden Committee45 have both pointed out that we need to invest in more knowledge and better digital solutions. They also emphasise that we have to strengthen global health preparedness to enable the world to prevent, identify at an early stage and respond quickly to developing resistance and new or persistent threats posed by infectious diseases. This also requires sufficient capacity in education in the field, as we pointed out under the priority health. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s report on antibiotic resistance and pertaining knowledge gaps, challenges and relevant measures pointed out that we lack knowledge about the role of the environment in the development and spread of antibiotic resistance in Norway as well as in the global context.46 To prevent resistance, we need global research collaboration and more knowledge about infection control in the health service. Good infection control can prevent both infection and the spread of resistant microbes. Preventive work outside institutions and good animal health are also crucial factors in limiting the spread of infection, thus keeping the use of antibiotics by humans and animals low. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health proposed a number of measures in its report, including more research on prevention in and outside the services. Food security, drinking water and supply risk

Food security in Norway is addressed by domestic food production and by safeguarding our production base. We utilise our soil resources well and protect cultivated soil. International trade also ensures our food security. Even though Norway has good food security, climate change and more extreme weather events can make crop failure a more frequent occurrence. Climate change and international conflicts can both disrupt the value chain and make supply security more challenging. Any strengthening of our contingency planning by increasing Norway’s food production must be based on sustainable management and more circular use of resources, in combination with strong protection of cultivated soil. The protection of cultivated soil must be balanced against other needs of society, however. Food security and drinking water supply depend on good ecosystem conditions and ecosystem services such as water supply and purification. The challenges of the future require an integrated approach to society’s different needs.

The global trade and food systems are also changing. Population growth, climate change, natural resources under pressure, water shortages, the coronavirus pandemic and the security policy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine all contribute to putting food security high on the national as well as the international agenda. Other major environmental degradation, security policy crises and unforeseen events such as pandemics could also disrupt the value chains.

We need knowledge that will help to increase the national self-sufficiency rate within the limits inherent in nature, and also about risk management and more robust trade systems at the national as well as international level. We have to improve our understanding of risk, mutual dependence and vulnerability to disruption in a global production system. We also have to improve our knowledge about how we can build preparedness systems to prevent poverty, food shortages and famine as a result of failure in food production and food distribution.

A secure supply of safe drinking water is vital for society to function. A sufficient number of skilled workers, engineers and graduate engineers in the fields of water, sewage and the environment must be trained and employed to enable municipalities to ensure clean and safe water to the entire population of Norway. It is also important to develop and introduce new technology in the municipalities to ensure effective, cost-efficient and sustainable water and sewage solutions. Energy security

In recent years, Europe has set itself ambitious goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and restructuring the energy markets. A significant production capacity has been developed for variable renewable energy, while much of the controllable production capacity has been phased out. This will have a bearing on energy prices in Europe in the time ahead. Increased demand for clean energy in combination with low inflow in Norway’s hydropower system and high gas, coal and CO2 prices have had a significant impact on energy prices in Norway as well. The Norwegian power grid has become more closely integrated with that of other European countries through a number of electricity interconnectors. When the European energy market changes because of the growth in variable renewable energy, we are also affected.

New knowledge and new technologies and solutions must be developed to manage, transmit and use energy in a good and appropriate manner. This is also important to make the energy system more secure, robust and flexible. We need power market models to help us to understand the connections in the power markets going forward, and knowledge about how Norwegian society depends on a secure energy supply. We also need knowledge about the consequences of our overall energy policy for different groups in society, as well as about its implications for wealth distribution and welfare policies. Energy security is a particularly important national responsibility, which means that the expert communities and tools we need to ensure security of supply must be in place. Large-scale investment in offshore wind power intensifies the need for more knowledge and up-to-date models that can manage energy and power market analyses. Serious natural events

Damage caused by floods, landslides and avalanches, storms and wind has always been one of the major challenges facing Norway. We have to expect more extreme weather events and greater impact from such natural events in the time ahead, particularly in connection with dramatic changes to precipitation patterns. More extreme precipitation means that landslides could occur in areas that have so far been spared. Changes to the climate also increase the probability of more droughts. Droughts can lead to lower hydroelectric power production, increased risk of forest fire, crop failure, a limited drinking water supply and damage to ecosystems.47 Ice loss leads to an increased level of human activity in areas that were previously inaccessible. This activity makes nature more vulnerable, which increases the risk of negative impacts.

Extreme weather events and infrastructure damage will also cause considerable indirect costs, for example reduced sense of security and disruption of business activities. Failure of functions critical to society is one potential consequence. This will increase pressure on the authorities, municipalities and enterprises’ capacity to prevent and deal with crises and carry out rescue operations. In light of climate change, we therefore need to identify new research areas to prevent natural hazards.

We also need to develop a better understanding of the impact of natural damage on nature, society, migration and the economy. Such events could have a detrimental effect on food production, settlement, water supply and other infrastructure. At the same time, much of Norway is characterised by demanding topographical conditions and very long distances. We therefore need knowledge about how the risk of damage related to climate and weather conditions and major incidents develop in and vary between different parts of Norway, and about what measures can be implemented to reduce the risk of damage and incidents. We also need innovation in rescue technology and more highly skilled rescue and emergency response personnel. Nuclear safety and preparedness

Nuclear research in Norway has given us knowledge and expertise in areas such as radiation protection, nuclear safety and preparedness, radioactive pollution and radioecology as well as radiopharmacy. Norway has no nuclear reactors for electricity production, but nearby countries do have nuclear power production and plan to develop more facilities. We therefore need expert communities capable of dealing with incidents where radioactive substances spread and could affect Norway. As part of this effort, we will continue to contribute financially to the European Atomic Energy Community’s (Euratom) Euratom Research and Training Programme (2021–2025), although Euratom’s research programmes do not fall within the scope of the EEA Agreement and Norway is not a member of Euratom. The areas of research that are most relevant to Norway are radiation protection, the effect of radioactive pollution on the environment and in the food chain, and waste management, and we have therefore given priority to these areas.

The closure of our research reactors at Kjeller and in Halden means that we need knowledge and expertise on treatment, storage and final disposal of radioactive waste, and on safe decommissioning of nuclear facilities. This work will probably go on for decades. The Norwegian radiation protection community is a small one, and lack of expertise could make it challenging to decommission the nuclear facilities in a safe manner. We have a tradition of bringing in international experts, but expertise in this field is now in short supply internationally, as several countries are planning to decommission facilities. We must therefore strengthen the research communities that carry out basic research and offer research-based education in the nuclear field. The Government has already initiated this work, cf. Proposition No 115 (Resolution) (2021–2022) and Recommendation No 450 (Resolution) (2021–2022). Security policy changes and responsible international knowledge cooperation

Russia’s war against Ukraine has had material political and economic consequences on a global scale and given rise to lasting change in the international system, both in the economy and security policy. At the same time, more intense rivalry between the global powers and the interconnected global economy will continue to affect and intensify the consequences of potential future conflicts. The Government will continue its work to develop and strengthen Norwegian research communities with expertise on security policy changes and trends at the regional European level as well as on global power shifts and the potential for conflict. The dynamics of the relationship between the USA, the EU, Russia and China and these dynamics’ implications for Norway and our national security are of particular interest. The UN’s role and function form part of this picture.

The Government considers it particularly important to strengthen cooperation with the EU and other closely related partners and allies on security policy research, but also considers it important to strengthen cooperation with other international partners with research expertise on foreign policy and security policy. We need interdisciplinary knowledge about the political development and security policy priorities of individual countries, as well as about what this means for Norway’s scope of action in security policy matters. In is important, both in the Norwegian context and from a more general perspective, to identify and understand policy instruments that can be effective in efforts to reduce and deal with national and international conflict. We need to understand how we can develop an institutional and legal framework suited to deal with international political conflicts and their consequences in the years to come.

Geopolitical developments also have a bearing on the framework conditions for international higher education and research cooperation. The Government considers it important for Norwegian higher education and research institutions to be well equipped to protect the assets they manage, including knowledge about and expertise on critical and potentially sensitive areas, in their interaction with foreign partners. International cooperation is a precondition for Norway’s further development as a knowledge nation and for finding good solutions to global challenges. This also includes cooperation with institutions and individual scientists from countries that Norway has no cooperation with on security policy-related matters. Several such countries possess strong expert communities in areas of importance to the development of knowledge and expertise that Norway needs, including areas of security policy-related importance.

The Government wants to strike a good balance between maintaining an open and internationally oriented knowledge sector and the need to exercise greater caution as global tension and polarisation are mounting. HK-dir and the Research Council of Norway have been tasked with developing national guidelines for responsible international collaboration in order to facilitate goal-oriented collaboration that addresses both established values and standards for academic collaboration and national interests in a broader sense. These guidelines, which are scheduled to be ready in the first half of 2023, are intended as a contribution to increasing knowledge and raising awareness among Norwegian higher education and research institutions about the opportunities as well as the challenges associated with international knowledge cooperation.

The framework conditions for Norway’s security are influenced by the opportunities available to developing countries when it comes to positive economic, social and political change. Interdisciplinary research that provides deeper and broader insight into how the development of these countries can be supported therefore adds to the knowledge base on which Norway’s development policy efforts are based. Technology and societal security

Norway has a world-class digital foundation that facilitates digitalisation and innovation. More and more services that are important or even critical to society are built on this foundation. Society’s growing dependence on digital services increases our need for knowledge about risks and what can be done to reduce the vulnerability of value chains in the economy and critical societal functions and information systems. Among other things, we need knowledge about developments in traditional and social media. The rapid development of new and ground-breaking enabling technologies, which are discussed in more detail under the priority enabling and industrial technologies, will have a bearing on security and data protection in Norway in the years ahead. Examples of such technologies include big data, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, autonomy, space technology and quantum technology. These technologies can help to keep society and the population safe. Moreover, they can give us better possibilities for prevention, rescue operations, fire response and crisis management, but they could also pose major new challenges in terms of security and protection of privacy.

The threat posed by organised crime is increasingly digital. We therefore need to understand mutual dependencies in a global, digital economy and social development. We also need to understand how criminals and states can influence and threaten society and national security by digital means. Moreover, we have to develop knowledge and methods to fight internet crime and different forms of influence operations and disinformation. We must also become less dependent on technology supplied by authoritarian states. We therefore need to strengthen education in ICT security and increase the number of employees who have expertise on digital security and the ability to manage digital risks. It is important that security and data protection are prerequisites in the development of all new products and systems, so that society does not need to spend a lot of resources on remedying security flaws once the products and systems are in use.

Technology development is an integral part of our security policy development and total defence. Technology development both in the military and civil sector will have significant influence over the development of new capacities of importance to defensive capability and civil-military cooperation. We need strong research communities rooted in a Norwegian context that are capable of cooperating to strengthen the defence sector’s and civil sector’s ability to understand and make use of new and ground-breaking technology, including in an operational setting. Knowledge in a crisis

A crisis is a situation that differs from the normal situation and that has caused or could easily cause loss of life, injury or damage to the environment and material assets. A crisis is an extraordinary situation where an urgent need arises that cannot be met by ordinary resources and responsibilities. A reorganisation or additional resources will therefore be required to resolve a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the weaknesses of the current knowledge system and made it evident that we need better contingency plans to deal with the knowledge needs that arise during a crisis, including psychosocial emergency response.48 Good crisis management depends on good assessments of which expert communities to involve at which stage of the crisis. Societal security is characterised by a complex overall situation involving a number of risks and actors. Overall knowledge development is needed to elucidate connections and assess the effects of different forms of preparedness and crisis management measures.

Quick access to existing statistics and data is needed to support knowledge-based crisis management. New statistics and data must also be developed and opportunities provided for ensuring that good research and analysis communities from different disciplines have access to the data. Among other things, it is important that they can quickly produce quality-assured evidence syntheses on which politicians can base their decisions. Furthermore, we need knowledge about effective communication in a crisis situation.

We also need to consider how the existing regulatory framework is practised and if there are any ways of making case processing more efficient. It is important to be able to collect data quickly, and we therefore need to simplify the regulatory framework and the way in which it is practised. Among other things, we have to consider the rules for and ethical aspects of randomised studies and other methods to identify causal connections. We also need to have a basic infrastructure for data sharing and computing power that has sufficient capacity regardless of where a crisis strikes.

3.5.2 Measures and follow-up

The Government expects universities, university colleges, hospital trusts, regional health authorities and research institutes that receive public basic funding to follow up the thematic prioritisation of societal security and civil preparedness and help to meet the knowledge and skills needs described above within their capabilities and areas of responsibility.

The Government will:

  • give particular priority to the following areas of research and research-driven innovation:

    • effects of infection control measures and antibiotic resistance

    • international research collaboration on climate-smart agriculture and global food security

    • development of energy security models and analysis tools

    • mutual dependencies and trade systems in a global, digital economy and social development

    • strengthen Norway’s research capacity on geopolitical dynamics, particularly regarding political, security policy-related and financial changes at the global scale

    • consequences of security policy developments and changes in the threat situation for Norway’s national security

    • effective measures to combat internet crime and different forms of influence operations and disinformation

    • strengthen synergies in utilisation of technology and improve the ability to manage complex rescue operations and deal with new and complex threats

    • facilitate research for the decommissioning of Norway’s nuclear facilities

  • give particular priority to the following areas in higher education and skills:

    • facilitate the education of more engineers, graduate engineers and graduates with interdisciplinary expertise on societal security

    • facilitate the education of more PhD candidates who can be granted security clearance

    • strengthen nuclear expert communities and study programmes

    • facilitate the strengthening of digital security expertise in key disciplines

    • decentralised and flexible education

  • give particular priority to the following areas in data infrastructure and digitalisation:

    • infrastructure capable of processing large quantities of data to strengthen contingency planning, prevent crises and manage them when they do occur

    • investment to make us less dependent on technology supplied by authoritarian states

  • face new and complex threats by strengthening cooperation in research, innovation and skills development across sectors and through interdisciplinary perspectives

  • develop models and analysis tools and strengthen expertise and understanding of the water cycle, energy security and prevention of damage caused by droughts, floods and landslides/ avalanches

  • establish better preparedness to deal with knowledge needs and upscale systems when a crisis occurs, and highlight research needs for crisis prevention

  • strengthen the knowledge base on disciplines that require particular caution in cooperation with foreign actors

  • establish a research centre that focuses on geopolitical issues

3.6 Trust and community

The Norwegian welfare state is built on a high level of trust between people and widespread use of collective solutions. The high level of trust, both between individuals and groups in the population, between the people and the authorities and between urban and rural areas, has long historical roots, and is linked to people’s sense of community and cultural identity.49 The development of common welfare schemes and other social institutions has made it possible for the Norwegian social model to combine a sense of social security with high value creation.50 Long-term efforts have been undertaken to promote parity of living conditions between regions and between densely and sparsely populated areas.

Today, the level of trust in Norwegian society is among the highest in the OECD area. According to the OECD, contributing factors include a strong welfare system, equalisation of income through taxation, petroleum revenues to the state, tripartite collaboration in the labour market, low corruption and a high level of integrity in the public sector.51

In an age of rapid transition, the Government believes that we must strengthen trust and community to ensure the Norwegian social model is sustainable. This means that we must reduce financial, social and regional differences, prevent exclusion, protect jobs, counter trends of polarisation and a sense of powerlessness, bolster democratic participation and combat hate speech and discrimination. We must also strengthen trust in civil society and trust in public services and authorities. Furthermore, we must secure the financial foundation for our welfare schemes. The responsibility for all of the above does not rest with one single sector of society. To succeed, we must be able to see the connections between many areas of society and policy, and do so with a long-term perspective. This requires insight into what has shaped society over a long period of time and the challenges we now face.

The Government emphasises three main challenges with respect to trust and community. We need a better knowledge base to 1) ensure participation and diversity in common arenas, 2) prevent exclusion, and 3) develop an innovative and efficient public sector that provides good services to its users. These topics require an interdisciplinary approach, particularly from the humanities, social sciences and professional disciplines. Trust in research-based knowledge is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.

3.6.1 Main challenges and knowledge needs Ensure participation and diversity in common arenas

A vibrant democratic society is based on the active participation of its citizens. Social and cultural arenas must therefore be geared to motivating participation in a diverse population. This applies in public discourse, political parties and elected bodies, in education and the labour market and in other common arenas. Encouraging broad participation also serves to prevent exclusion. We are not succeeding in this area today, as discussed in the section below on preventing exclusion.

Democracy and public life

The central government authorities have a constitutional responsibility to promote open and informed public discourse. The development and renewal of democracy requires critical discussion and a diversity of perspectives. The challenges facing society must be addressed on the basis of objective debate and respect for democratic processes. Protecting democracy is a key responsibility in all sectors.

The fabric of public discourse and common arenas has changed over the past decades. New technology enables a diversity of voices to participate in public debate. At the same time, we see that democratic processes and public debate are now under pressure from, among other things, troll factories, fake news, various forms of manipulation through digital media and the emergence of echo chambers. This could undermine democracy and threaten societal security (discussed in more detail in section 3.5). We also see that cancel culture, self-censorship and harassment on new platforms can deter people from participating in public debate, especially in relation to contentious issues. There is also tension between urban and rural areas. Overall, this leads to a polarisation of society. Some of the same challenges are also evident in academia (see discussion in Chapter 7).

We need research on the drivers that impact public discourse today and on what bolsters or undermines objective debate and democratic processes. This research should look at political, technological, cultural, social, regional and legal aspects. We also need research on what promotes and, if applicable, impedes our development of democratic competence – regardless of background – in education, working life and civil society. The research should also have a regional perspective that captures the similarities and differences between different regions, parts of the country, rural and urban areas, and the specific challenges facing rural Norway. Ensuring research is performed by research communities based in different parts of Norway will increase the likelihood of a diverse range of regional perspectives being represented. There is a lot to be gained in these areas from international research collaboration, including through the Horizon Europe programme. Inclusion and diversity and young people’s participation in democracy are also important priorities in Erasmus+ and the European Education Area.

The culture sector, civil society, voluntary organisations, the media and the education system all play a key role in protecting democracy. We therefore need research on how the current policy in these fields is able to deal with new challenges relating to language, social conventions and culture of free speech. Examples of relevant issues include global technology giants’ dominance as content providers, political influence via new media, rights issues and the significance of new, digital cultural meeting places and forms of communication. How increased digitalisation impacts people with poor digital literacy should also be investigated.

Textbox 3.12 Freedom of Expression Commission

The Freedom of Expression Commission was appointed in 2020 to study the social, technological, legal and financial framework for freedom of expression in Norway today. The Commission has been tasked with mapping existing knowledge about the status of freedom of expression and assessing the need for more research in this area, among other things. The Commission’s Report, Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2022: 9 En åpen og opplyst offentlig samtale (‘Open and informed public discourse’ – in Norwegian only), was presented in August 2022. The Commission finds that the overall public discourse situation in Norway is good, and refers to how the internet has made a huge contribution to democratising freedom of expression and information, among other things. However, the Commission also highlights a number of challenges.

Although the Commission recommends several amendments to the law in this area, it believes that a viable democracy is best achieved by other means. The Commission points out that the development of an inclusive culture of free speech is a shared responsibility, and that rhetorical citizenship and broad expression preparedness are developed jointly. Public discourse in Norway today is based on an active and diverse civil society. The Commission recommends several concrete measures to stimulate this development, including education and training in the use of freedom of speech at school.

The Commission also sees a continuous need for up-to-date research in various areas, particularly those facing challenges. Examples of such areas are use and experience of freedom of speech in various groups, including Sami, sexual minorities and disabled people. Other areas include the large platform companies’ impact on Norwegian society, the scope and harmful effects of misinformation and disinformation, and the status and experience of freedom of speech in the arts and culture.

The report will be submitted for broad consultation before the Government considers its recommendations. See also discussion of the Kierulf Committee’s report on academic freedom of expression in Chapter 7.

Participation in education and working life

Participation in kindergartens and schools and other educational arenas leads to personal growth, is conducive to health and opens doors for participation in working life, civil society and democratic processes. The Norwegian education system is a community arena that fosters a sense of belonging and bolsters trust in society by giving everyone access to learning and development based on common values. We need knowledge about how we can ensure a learning environment that helps everyone to complete basic education and develop the skills they need to actively participate in society.

Work is a source of income, financial security and self-realisation. Participating in working life counteracts differences in living conditions, helps to prevent and combat poverty, and plays a huge role in social inclusion. Work is by and large conducive to health, but for some, work and the working environment can also cause health problems and lead to sickness absence and exit from working life. We need knowledge about how to promote a productive, diverse and inclusive working life.

Belonging and participation

A sense of community requires us to identify with, include and accept each other despite our differences. An inclusive society also requires that both majority and minority groups have a sense of social belonging and identity. We need research on cultural and identity issues, including their historical and religious aspects. The Norwegian research system has a particular responsibility to generate sound research on Norwegian and Sami language, culture, history, economy and other aspects of society, including research on regional issues.

Children and young people have a right to participation. Growing up in a digital age entails opportunities, but also considerable risks. The Norwegian Committee for the protection of children and young people against harmful media effects, which presented its report in March 2021, recommends more research on children’s use of media and media content, especially relating to sexualised content, hate speech, digital bullying and extreme content.52

We also need knowledge about what role participating in cultural and leisure activities plays for the individual, and how important these types of local community arenas are for public health, including research on how the barriers to participating in such activities can be broken down for adults and children alike.

Research is also needed on the opportunities indigenous peoples, national minorities and other minority groups have to safeguard their cultural heritage and practise their own cultural traditions across borders and in relation to the majority society. Cultural practices being shaped in contact with each other and new ones arising is often seen as enabling broader inclusion. Research is needed on these dynamics and their role in safeguarding both community and trust.

Equality, non-discrimination and diversity

The Government’s ambition to achieve greater equality, less discrimination and more diversity covers many arenas of society and will improve the lives of many. The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act has, moreover, recently been extended to cover more forms of discrimination.

However, the Research Council describes this policy area as being ‘weak’ in terms of research. The Ministry of Culture and Equality has therefore established a collaboration with the Research Council with a view to presenting a cross-sector R&D strategy in 2023. A new report from the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) particularly recommends strengthening research on bases for and forms of discrimination that have so far not been studied to any great extent, and on the discrimination challenges that are most serious for individuals and society.53

The forthcoming R&D strategy will strengthen the knowledge base for equality efforts in a range of sectors and arenas in the years to come. The knowledge needs that are identified will form the basis for the choice of direction and priorities. Research communities, sector authorities, special interest organisations etc. will be involved in the development work. Prevent exclusion

Exclusion is a complex and persistent problem for society. Being excluded from the social communities that others participate and find meaning in, be it school, working life, leisure activities or cultural arenas, is one of the most difficult things anyone can experience. There are often multifaceted reasons, and exclusion from one context often leads to other forms of exclusion. It gives rise to a long list of negative consequences at group and society level, and costs a great deal in terms of human and financial resources. The battle against exclusion requires considerable efforts from various actors and services, both individually and collectively.

Understanding the reasons is essential to preventing exclusion, not least how different risk factors are interlinked and often reinforce each other. The key challenges and knowledge needs linked to specific groups or topics are set out in brief below. The cross-cutting knowledge needed to develop better and more efficient public services are discussed at the end of the chapter.

Textbox 3.13 Mission to include more children and young people in education, employment and society

Exclusion of young people is a major challenge in society and entails significant costs for the individual and society. Many different areas of society are involved in the work to reduce exclusion. Unified and coordinated efforts where knowledge is used to create real change are needed to tackle this challenge. Close collaboration between research, higher education and services geared towards children and young people who are struggling is vital to ensuring they have a good childhood and go on to have good lives as adults. Exclusion among young adults often stems from experiences in childhood and adolescence. In the present long-term plan, the Government presents two missions. This represents a fresh research policy instrument in a Norwegian context. See Chapter 6 for a more detailed discussion. Through this mission, the Government aims to reduce the proportion of young people not in education or work or taking part in society through cross-sectoral and targeted efforts geared towards impact factors for a good childhood. The Ministry of Children and Families, the Ministry of Health and Care Services, and the Ministry of Education and Research will be among the ministries involved. The final wording of the main objective, quantification and further development of the sub-goals geared towards education and qualification, health, quality of life, coping, participation and inclusion, will be developed during the design and implementation phase. Consideration will also be given during this phase to whether the mission will cover young adults.

Vulnerable children and young people

Vulnerable children and young people are a heterogeneous group. Some may struggle for a short time, while others may have persistent and complex needs. This group includes children who experience neglect, violence and abuse, or who live in families with a low income or other living condition challenges. It also includes children and young people with disabilities or mental health issues. We also find juvenile offenders and those who have dropped out of school or have learning difficulties in this group. Children who come from immigrant backgrounds or have been adopted are other groups that may be particularly vulnerable. Many of these vulnerable children and adolescents have complex problems. Children and young people who receive inadequate care, learning and experience to prepare them for adult life have a heightened risk of permanent exclusion.

The research and innovation strategy BarnUnge21 shows that research in this area is based on a poor foundation, sectorised and has a short-term perspective. It also highlights the need for sound and forward-looking development of knowledge about what makes children and young people feel secure and included and what promotes their development.54 A united research effort will contribute to covering knowledge gaps, particularly with respect to the cross-sector challenges. The strategy highlights the need for better access to, use and alignment of data as a basis for research-based analyses of children and young people’s lives and their complex needs. We need a knowledge base that provides better, more research-based education, more targeted services and that lays a better foundation for developing policy. The programmes of professional study should be seen in a cross-sector perspective, both to link research and practice closer together and to holistically address the needs of children and families. Research is needed on the causes of exclusion and about the course it takes and its consequences, and, not least, on how measures to prevent and reduce exclusion among children and young people work.

Working life and exclusion

Employment policy, along with overall policy, shall ensure high employment and low unemployment rates. Those who have the capacity to work shall have the opportunity to do so, to ensure sustainable welfare schemes, even out social differences and combat poverty.

However, many people of working age are not in employment and receive public benefits. The use of health-related benefits is moreover high compared to other OECD countries (see section 3.2 on health). Certain groups are over-represented among those who struggle to find or keep jobs: young people, some groups of immigrants and people with poor qualifications or health issues. The fact that the proportion of young people who receive health-related benefits has increased over time gives cause for concern. The Employment Committee has proposed several measures to counter this trend.55 At the same time, we must combat irresponsibility in working life and work-related crime.

The need for research that can contribute to a more inclusive working life is complex. Firstly, we need research with a long-term perspective on how working life and the labour market develop, and the trends and development features identified. This research will provide a knowledge base on which to adapt policy and priorities, and enable us to design good, targeted measures.

Secondly, it is important that research generates knowledge on how the authorities’ efforts help to increase work inclusion, and on alternative ways forward. The research must both have a socio-economic macro perspective and a micro perspective looking at the support given to particularly vulnerable groups. It is important that the work and welfare sector, the health sector and the education sector work together to include particularly vulnerable groups in working life, or prevent them from dropping out. We need research that reflects these connections. This kind of research can set out how policy can be designed, e.g. how work-related follow-up can be provided at the same time as healthcare.


Integration policy cuts across sectors and is built on collaboration between central government and the municipalities, the social partners, civil society and private actors. The Act relating to integration through training, education and work (the Integration Act) is intended to contribute to more immigrants joining the workforce, thus enabling them to support themselves and their families, contribute to a financially sustainable welfare state and become part of Norwegian society.

Research shows that the rate of employment among immigrants is lower than in the population as a whole at all levels of education. This may be due to multiple factors, and there are differences between immigrant groups. There is a significantly higher employment rate among immigrants who have taken an education in Norway than among those who have taken the same level of education abroad.56 There are also considerable differences between e.g. refugees and labour immigrants. Other factors may also have an impact on employment. For example, stigmatisation and discrimination may also lead to marginalisation and act as a barrier to inclusion in society and working life.

We have seen recently how acute crises have forced large numbers of people to flee, which has posed a challenge for national authorities’ ability to coordinate collaboration across borders. This has also challenged Norwegian response efforts relating to the receipt, settlement and integration of newly arrived refugees in local communities.

Integration policy must be supported by research that generates knowledge about what works when it comes to different groups of immigrants being included and participating in Norwegian society and working life, and that contributes to developing equitable education and welfare services for a diverse population.

Crime prevention

Strengthening participation in common arenas is an indirect, but very effective means of preventing crime. Reducing the dropout rate from upper secondary school and increasing participation in working life are examples of measures that will reduce crime in the longer term.

Previous research has shown that there is a preponderance of young men in the crime statistics, and that low socio-economic status is a known risk factor. The immigrant population is a group over-represented in crime statistics, which is linked to, among other things, the fact that this group has a lower average age and poorer living conditions than the rest of the population. Young people and immigrants are also more at risk of being the victims of crime, particularly crimes involving violence and sexual abuse. These are the crimes that cost society the most. Crimes of relevance to societal security are discussed in more detail in section 3.5.

We need research on concrete causal relationships and on measures with a documented effect to be able to prioritise and get the policy right. For example, we do not know whether poor living conditions lead to crime, whether crime leads to poor living conditions or whether both are due to a common underlying cause. The same applies to the connection between crime and other factors, such as mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, and participation in working life or education. Nor do we know enough about which penal sanctions and other sanctions are most effective at preventing crime. In this research area, Norway should exploit the comparative advantage it has over many other countries of being able to link data about individuals from multiple registers, enabling us to identify connections and prove effects. An innovative and efficient public sector that provides good services to its citizens

A knowledge-based public sector that enjoys the broad trust of the population is fundamental to the Norwegian welfare model. If we are going to maintain this welfare model during a period marked by less financial scope of action, while maintaining the trust of society, we need to think differently about the structure of the public sector and its measures and services. If the public sector is to be able to develop its efficiency, quality and trust-based governance systems, it is vital that the sector has the ability to initiate, participate and use research to that end. In the face of demographic changes, we need to develop public services that meet user needs in a relevant and efficient manner, also across sectors. We need, not least, to develop better services for users with different and complex needs. The Government will implement a trust reform in the public sector to ensure that its employees get the freedom of action they need to provide good services (see box 3.14).

Report No 30 to the Storting (2019–2020) An innovative public sector confirms the need to increase research efforts on and involving innovation in the public sector. Surveys also show that innovation is more effective in the public sector when combined with research and higher education. The effects include higher quality, improved employee satisfaction and political goal achievement, more user participation and higher efficiency.57 However, the same surveys show that only 24 per cent of the innovation takes place in a collaboration with research and higher education.

The research-based knowledge base is weak in parts of the public sector. More and better research is needed in a number of areas in relation to the content of the services themselves, the structures they are part of, how they work together as an integrated set of services for users, and their effect. This applies to both central government and municipal measures. One example of this is the practice-based research conducted on labour and welfare services, where the research efforts are rather weak. More and better knowledge about what works for whom will be helpful to case officers working in labour and welfare administration and partners in the health sector, the education sector and the labour market.

Another example is the child welfare service, which is tasked with taking care of some of the most vulnerable children and families in our society. We need research on the challenges children and their parents face, and the help they need across the spectrum of services. We particularly need to look at the assistance measures provided by municipalities, and whether they achieve the results they set out to. We also lack knowledge about what constitutes good care and treatment in a child welfare institution, and how we can ensure that children who live in institutions and foster homes are not moved around more than necessary. Child welfare service employees administer some of the welfare state’s most invasive measures. They thus need a high level of expertise and continuity in the professional community to be able to provide high-quality services while safeguarding children’s and parents’ due process protection. We need to prioritise master’s degree programmes in child welfare until the qualification requirements are implemented in full in the sector in 2031.

We need good basic data and high-quality research on the entire course of education and training with respect to kindergartens and schools. More must be done to that end to enable reuse and further use of data, including for research purposes, while safeguarding protection of privacy at the same time. Research must provide an insight into cause and effect between different phenomena of significance to children and young people’s well-being, learning, education choices and inclusion in a longer perspective. We need research on what works for whom and why, and research that develops theory and methodology.

As well as research in individual sectors, we need to strengthen cross-sectoral research and research on this type of collaboration. Silo thinking places too many limits on collaboration between sectors and levels of authority, and is an obstacle to the development of good services for citizens who need help and assistance from multiple service providers or sectors. We also need better and more dynamic collaboration between research, education programmes and different professions in the field of practice. The municipal sector has a key role here. Research and education programmes must be of relevance to individual municipalities, mobilising them as valuable actors in education and research. In that connection, we must develop better collaboration models for research with the municipalities, and not just on and for them. This is particularly important now that major demographic changes are taking place. One relevant collaboration measure may be to develop population data at county and municipality level into public health profiles, which could provide knowledge about the effect of measures. This type of knowledge could be used as a basis for measures in the social element of municipal master plans.58

More knowledge is also needed about interaction and collaboration between the public sector, especially the municipalities, and voluntary organisations in several welfare policy areas, such as education, the conditions under which children and young people grow up, integration of immigrants, care for the elderly, public health and civil preparedness. Foundations and non-profit organisations play an important role here.

The Research Council’s funding instruments have recently been increased to build capacity and help to ensure that research and innovation improves quality, skills and efficiency in public health and care services (see section 3.2 on health), labour and welfare services, the education sector, and child and family welfare services. The object is to strengthen practice-based research in communities that are responsible for programmes of professional study, ensure qualified professionals for the field of practice and help to increase collaboration on innovation between researchers, professionals, service providers and users. These efforts will continue. Participation in international collaboration, not least Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, is also a means of developing better public services.

Since the budgets for public expenditure generally look set to become tighter going forward, also in research, it will become increasingly important to prioritise good causes. Knowledge about which measures work, gained e.g. through trials, is important for prioritising research. The effects of measures and services must be documented to a greater extent, for example through effectiveness research. This must also be followed up with formative research by using e.g. register data, to ensure that measures provide the individual with the right help while also being sustainable for society. New graduates, evidence syntheses and more use of research results, by, for example, drawing up guidelines, are important channels for having the knowledge quickly implemented in the services.

As well as having to further develop the public services available, we also need knowledge about how we can ensure that people continue to have a high level of trust in the public authorities and in the governance tools used by the public administration. This is made evident by various trends. The increasing complexity of society leads to more juridification, when, for example, regulatory instruments are used to tackle the challenges facing society. More research and expertise is therefore needed about legislation as a governance tool. We need research on the quality of and compliance with regulations, on the social function of legislation, the use of new technology and how it relates to fundamental rights.

What has become known as the EEA case and the pertaining Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 9 Blindsonen – Granskning av feilpraktiseringen av folketrygdlovens oppholdskrav ved reiser i EØS-området (‘The blind zone – investigation of incorrect application of the requirement to stay in Norway set out in the National Insurance Act in connection with travel in the EEA area’ – in Norwegian only), shows that there is a great risk of making mistakes when it comes to implementing and practising the EEA regulations that are incorporated into Norwegian law. These mistakes can have serious consequences for individuals. Incorrect application of the law also impacts people’s trust in the authorities and the public administration. We therefore need more legal research that can form a knowledge base for legal practice and for the public administration’s work on regulatory development and application.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we also need knowledge about the population’s trust in the advice given by the authorities during health crises. We need to conduct research on communication with different population groups and the importance of being open about the knowledge on which the advice is based, among other things.

Textbox 3.14 The trust reform

The trust reform is a joint project for the whole Government. The object of the reform is to provide more welfare and better services for citizens by increasing trust within the public sector. This will be achieved by:

  • a. increasing the professional freedom of first-line staff

  • b. reducing reporting and documentation requirements

  • c. increasing scope of action for municipal and county authorities

  • d. increasing co-determination and opportunities for involving employee unions

  • e. improving governance, organisation and coordination

  • f. increasing use of trust-based management

To strengthen the basis for the trust reform, we need research-based knowledge about the factors that enhance targeted and trust-based governance in the public sector, at different levels and within different fields.

3.6.2 Measures and follow-up

The Government expects universities, university colleges, hospital trusts, regional health authorities and research institutes that receive public basic funding to follow up the thematic prioritisation of trust and community, and help to meet the knowledge and skills needs described above within their capabilities and areas of responsibility.

The Government will:

  • give particular priority to the following areas of research and research-driven innovation:

    • strengthen trust, community and diversity, including research on democracy as a governance system and way of life, democratic participation, civil society, equality, regional factors and digital exclusion.

    • combat exclusion, including research on violence, abuse and hate crime, and research on children and young people

    • strengthen the public sector’s innovation capabilities and efficiency, including more use of formative research and effectiveness research.

  • give particular priority to the following areas in higher education and skills:

    • relevant programmes of professional study in areas with insufficient capacity, particularly in child welfare, teachers in rural areas and teachers with Sami language skills

    • decentralised and flexible education

  • implement a mission to include more children and young people in education, employment and society

  • assess the recommendations made by the Freedom of Expression Commission

  • develop models for collaboration between research and fields of practice that are in line with the public sectors’ future knowledge and innovation needs

  • draw up and implement a cross-sectoral R&D strategy to strengthen the knowledge base for the efforts to achieve equality, non-discrimination and diversity



See e.g. Bornmann and Mutz (2015) and Mazzucato (2013).


Research Council of Norway (2022a).


Thue et al. (2022).




See e.g. Baker (2015).


Fukuyama (1996).


OECD (2022a).


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 2.


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 12.


The term ‘knowledge system’ is also used in other contexts. In the present long-term plan, it is used to refer to research and higher education.


Research Council of Norway (2022b).


National Centre for Public-Private Sector Innovation (2022).


IPCC (2022), IPBES (2019), UN Environment (2021), UN Environment (2019).


Ministry of Education and Research (2021a), Ministry of Education and Research (2021e), Report No 7 to the Storting (2020–2021), Ministry of Education and Research (2021f).


Larrue and Santos (2022).


Report No 16 to the Storting (2020–2021), HK-dir (2022b), NOKUT (2022), NOKUT (2021).


OECD (2019), OECD (2021).


Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (2022).


Ministry of Education and Research (2021b) and Ministry of Education and Research (2021c).


Research Council of Norway (2022d).


Menon Economics (2022).


UN Climate Change Conference UK (2021).


Hjemås et al. (2019).


Report No 14 to the Storting (2020–2021).


IPBES (2020).


See UN (2012).


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 15.


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 15.


Kommunenes strategiske forskningsorgan (2019).


See for example the European Commission (2022).


IPCC (2022).


Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries (2022).


Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries (2022).


Federation of Norwegian Industries (2021).


Maritime transport is discussed in section 3.1 under the priority oceans and coastal areas.


How to deal with major natural events resulting from climate change is discussed under the priority societal security and preparedness.


IPCC (2022).


Norwegian Agriculture Agency (2020).


Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development (2020).


OECD (2022b).


Ministry of Education and Research (2021g).


Ministry of Justice and Public Security (2022).


The Directorate for Civil Protection regularly analyses crisis scenarios and proposes relevant measures to prevent and deal with crises. We need to clarify our research needs in terms of prevention.


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2021: 6.


Norwegian Directorate of Health (2021).


Steinbakk et al. (2014).


Report No 5 to the Storting (2020–2021).


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2021: 6.


Bergh and Bjørnskov (2011).


Sejersted (2005).


OECD (2022a).


Official Norwegian Report NOU 2021: 3.


NIFU (2021).


Research Council of Norway (2021a).


Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2019: 7 and Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2021: 2.


Official Norwegian Report NOU 2017: 2.


National Centre for Public-Private Sector Innovation (2022).


Norwegian Institute of Public Health (2020).

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