Tale/innlegg | Dato: 06.12.2013 | Nærings- og fiskeridepartementet
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a very promising sign for Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020 that this conference is fully booked.
I am happy to note that we have a few businesses with us as well.
Those of you present today will have a head start in tapping into the great potential that lies in the Horizon 2020 programme.
Europe is by far Norway’s main trading partner.
Today, about 80 percent of Norway’s export of goods and more than 60 percent of our exports of services is directed to countries in the EU.
Similarly, two thirds of foreign direct investments in Norway are from the EU. Two thirds of Norwegian foreign direct investments go to our European neighbours.
This close interconnectedness is why the new Norwegian Government has decided to front a more active relationship with the EU.
One testimony to this is that we now have a Minister of European Affairs at the office of the Prime minister, Mr. Vidar Helgesen.
Another testimony is our strong dedication to participate in Europa-wide projects – like Horizon 2020.
As a small and open economy, Norway is tangibly affected by the Euro zone crisis.
The last years we have seen the biggest economic downturn in the world economy for over 70 years.
Before a slight economic upturn the last two quarters, the Euro zone experienced six consecutive quarters of economic decline, the longest continuous period of decline since the Euro was introduced in 2002.
Unemployment is 12,1 percent, and dramatically higher for certain parts of the population in some countries.
Although reforms are implemented, the national debt is under control, and the worst panic has subsided, the future is still uncertain.
However – one thing is certain: Europe needs more jobs.
The need for highly competent and innovative European businesses is higher than ever before.
Horizon 2020 reinforces knowledge as the driving force of the European economy.
The programme fits hand-in-glove with the new Norwegian Government’s plans for a greater emphasis on research and innovation to build an even more knowledge-intensive and future-oriented industry and business sector.
Our goal is to make Norway one of the most innovative countries in Europe.
This goal can only be reached through a dedicated effort for increasing R&D investments.
Earlier this autumn, a Norwegian report concluded that in course of the last ten years Asia has overtaken both Europe and North America in total R&D investments.
And if growth in Asian R&D investments continues at the same speed, China will be the world’s biggest R&D investor in only few years.
Not only is the Global South and the East becoming increasingly important part of global trade.
They are also becoming an important part of global research networks and knowledge-development.
For a small country like Norway – making up around 0,07 percent of world population ; it is vital that we realize that we won’t get far by acting on our own.
Knowing that 99 percent of global knowledge production takes place outside of Norway – the conclusion is crystal clear:
If we are to enhance quality and relevance in Norwegian research and innovation – we have to facilitate international co-operation in R&D and innovation activities.
• This is why we seek to establish bilateral research agreements with important research nations like the United States, China, India and Japan.
• And – as Europe is both Norway’s most important market and arena for international cooperation – this is also why we engage wholeheartedly in European R&D and innovation programs – like Horizon 2020.
Norwegian businesses have demonstrated a growing interest in the EU Framework Programmes for R&D.
In the sixth Framework Programme we saw around 230 Norwegian businesses per year participating in project applications.
This amount increased to around 360 yearly participations at the end of the seventh Framework Programme.
A long list of Norwegian businesses have benefitted from the programmes.
• The most active Norwegian company in the seventh Framework Programme has been our most international company: DNV.
They have been engaging in 30 projects.
• But smaller companies are very active, too: The transport and logistics company Marlo has been participating in 14 projects – for a total of over 4 million euros.
• Another big fundraiser – and a testimony to the economic potential in these programmes – is public transport company Ruter.
They raised 5,5 million euros through participating in one single project: “Clean Hydrogen in European Cities” – a project testing hydrogen-driven bus transport.
• A fourth example of Norwegian participation is Borregaard. They have been successful in finding new business opportunities from a challenging starting point in the paper industry.
As a result of their results from their R&D efforts, they even received an innovation reward by the EU-commission a few weeks ago.
The size of the new Framework Programme makes Horizon 2020 one of the most significant tools in Norwegian research and innovation policy.
On the other hand, the size of the programme – 70 billion euros over seven years – and the price of being a part of it, makes it particularly important to ensure that the programme is sufficiently relevant and beneficial for Norwegian research communities.
One could argue that this is particularly the case for the businesses, because businesses put more emphasis on the real outcomes of cooperation activities in the form of concrete products.
I am pleased to note that there has been taken several important initiatives in Horizon 2020 that give us reasons to expect increased business-participation in the new Framework Programme:
• First of all, the increased emphasis on innovation and commercialisation activities is an important development.
• Secondly, more focus on bottom-up initiatives and small and medium-sized enterprises will contribute to making the programme more business-relevant, and maybe even more so in Norway than in some of the other countries.
• A third positive development is the emphasis on generic and enabling technologies. This is very much in line with the priorities in Norwegian research and innovation policy.
• We also welcome the increased focus on the great societal challenges.
We are particularly pleased that the marine area, an area of great importance for Norway, now seems to be better integrated in Horizon 2020.
• Last but not least, the work that is being done within the new Framework Programme, in order to simplify and streamline the different programme activities and procedures, is imperative for stimulating increased participation from businesses throughout Europe.
As the Minister touched on this morning;
Public research institutions have been most active in the previous Framework Programmes, and as such have – and will continue to have – a central role in mobilizing business participation in European research projects.
In line with this, the results from the national participation in previous Framework Programmes indicate that many of the participating businesses have established long-term relations with public research institutions, and furthermore – that they have a high percentage of personnel with a higher university degree.
The increased focus on interdisciplinary and horizontal issues in Horizon 2020 will only strengthen the importance of collaboration between the national research performing sectors.
National authorities also have an important role to play – in mobilizing participation in Horizon 2020 – and making sure businesses take advantage of the possibilities.
Incentives are created through support schemes, information and counselling services and through strategic work within the EU-system.
We want different national research and innovation support agencies – like the Norwegian Research Council and Innovation Norway – to strengthen their collaborative effort in this respect.
We also have to look closer on the complementarity between the already existing national support instruments and the European support instruments.
It is vital that we ensure that national activities have a mobilizing effect.
If we are to solve the common European challenges, create new jobs and new growth – we need to combine our resources.
Europe’s most important resource is our population.
In solving the future challenges and adapting to an ever changing world, it is essential that we build bridges between people so we can develop knowledge and solutions for the future.
Horizon 2020 can be such a bridge.
I am optimistic that Horizon 2020 will be of great benefit for Norwegian research institutions as well as Norwegian businesses.
And I am convinced that Norwegian partners will have a lot to offer to European counterparts within the Horizon 2020 framework.
However, as the Minister mentioned this morning;
It is you, the researchers, leaders of research institutions and not least – the businesses, who must fulfil the ambitions.
I encourage you to write the proposals, take part in the networks and make use of the great potential in Horizon 2020.
Thank you for your attention.