Research cooperation

Increasingly, research is being carried out in cooperation across national borders, and a growing proportion of resources for research are being distributed in international competitive arenas.


International research cooperation enlarges Norway’s interface with the comprehensive knowledge development occurring in the rest of the world, and is important for ensuring that Norway achieves its other research policy objectives.

Norway must be part of international cooperation efforts in order to ensure quality and renewal in research, to share the risk and cost of investments in e.g. heavy research infrastructure, and to acquire knowledge and technology from abroad. Norway also has a responsibility to contribute to international knowledge development and help to solve common problems and challenges.

Research and innovation cooperation with the EU

The Government seeks to enhance the internationalisation of Norwegian research and higher education and to develop a wider range of internationally leading research groups. Europe is a vital area of cooperation for Norwegian researchers, and participation in the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation is one of the most important means of internationalising Norwegian research.

In spring 2014, the Government presented a strategy for cooperation with the EU on research and innovation, which establishes a target to increase Norwegian participation in the EU Framework Programme on Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020 (2014–2020), to two per cent of the competitive funding. The update in March 2019 shows that Norway is close to reaching the target, measuring a return in 2,22 per cent.

Norway actively participates in the preparations of the next framwork programme, Horizon Europe (2021-2027). The Government has communicated several inputs to this process:

Horizon 2020 – EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

Horizon 2020 seeks to promote sustainable economic development and European competitiveness, develop world-class research and innovation groups, and address the major societal challenges. 

The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation is an important instrument in the ongoing effort to establish the European Research Area (ERA). Norwegian actors have taken part in the EU framework programmes since the 1980s, and Norway has participated in the framework programmes on par with the EU Member States since 1994. Following the decision of the EEA Joint Committee on 16 May 2014, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014–2020, Horizon 2020, was incorporated into the Agreement on the European Economic Area. As a result, Norway participates fully in Horizon 2020 as well, and Norwegian research institutions, companies, health trusts and the Norwegian public sector may participate on an equal footing with comparable actors in the EU Member States.

Horizon 2020 is comprised of three main themes (known as “pillars”):

  1. Excellent science: The European Research Council, research infrastructure, mobility and career development through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie scheme, future and emerging technologies.
  2. Industrial leadership: Technologies such as ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology and space, access to risk capital and support for SMBs.
  3. Research related to major societal challenges, with seven sub-programmes related to health and welfare, food/agriculture/marine/maritime, energy, transport, climate/environment/resources, society and security.

The European Research Area (ERA)

The EU has established a joint European Research Area (ERA), the long-term objective of which is to ensure the free flow of knowledge and technology and to give researchers the opportunity to move freely across national borders in Europe. The main objectives of the ERA are:

  • more effective, better coordinated national research systems, including greater competition for research funding within the individual countries participating in the ERA;
  • joint research programmes (Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI)) and joint European research infrastructures (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure (ESFRI));
  • better gender balance and greater participation of women researchers in European research and research management;
  • a more open European market for researchers, researcher mobility and research careers;
  • increased knowledge transfer and dissemination of research results.

The EU Member States agreed in the Treaty of Lisbon to work for the implementation of the ERA. In addition, the ERA plays a key role in the EU’s growth strategy, Europe 2020, which aims to establish an Innovation Union. The Innovation Union sets out clear objectives for the development and implementation of the ERA. Norway takes part in the development of the ERA through its active participation in central committees and commissions charged with developing the ERA. Moreover, Norway participates in all 10 of the various joint research programmes and about half of the planned research infrastructures.

Nordic cooperation on research

Nordic cooperation on research and innovation is based on longstanding traditions and takes place via a wide range of institutions and organisations. Research is a priority area in the Nordic countries, and Nordic research and innovation has a high level of activity and quality in the international arena. This, together with the close ties and cultural similarities between the Nordic countries, makes Nordic research cooperation highly popular, and per capita, the Nordic countries are Norway’s largest research partners.

  • NordForsk is an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers that provides funding for and facilitates Nordic cooperation on research and research infrastructure.

Bilateral research cooperation

In recent years, bilateral research and technology cooperation has increased in volume and importance. At the heart of this cooperation lie individual researchers and research institutions, and their networks and contacts with colleagues and partners in other countries. The authorities lay the foundation for cooperation by entering into bilateral agreements and through deliberations on which areas to give priority.

Overview of large-scale international cooperative programmes