Leading international expertise
The climate agreement reached in The Storting (parliament) has given the Research Council of Norway the financial framework to implement significant measures with regard to renewable energy, CO2 capture and storage, and energy savings. In 2009, eight research centres for environmentally friendly energy (FME) were established in Norway with the explicit ambition to promote leading international research. SINTEF Energy Research is heavily involved in four of these. The scientific areas covered include offshore windpower, bioenergy, CO2 capture and storage, and environmentally friendly renewable power production with the main focus on hydropower and windpower.
The establishment of these centres has resulted in considerable interest outside Norway and they provide a good basis for cooperation with international research groups. In the proposed national budget for 2010, the Research Council was allocated NOK 300 million for work in environmentally friendly energy technology. We consider that these funds must be used to strengthem the established centres so that they will be international scientific frontrunners in their areas.
Two important steps that will advance research at these centres are upgrading the scientific equipment in our laboratories and providing the necessary financial strength to invite international academics and researchers to work in projects at the centres. These are our specific suggestions about how how this research funding should be allocated.
Other priorty areas
It is also necessary that research in areas that did not achieve centre status is not forgotten. Such areas include energy savings in industry, the offshore power ”Smart Grid”, international power markets, and relevant research for society associated with energy. These are all areas with great potential but will need more research funding.
If a new centre for energy research for society is established it is important to involve research groups involved in such research as well as those with a technological focus. This could be a centre with close ties to relevant research groups in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim.
New sources of funding
Joint research work in Europe through the European Commission's framework programmes is becoming increasingly important for Norwegian research institutes. SINTEF has an impressive track record here and 75 % of its research projects have some funding from the Commission's framework programmes. New sources of research funding are being drawn up where the EU only provides 25 % of the total and it is expected that the national budgets for research will provide the rest. An example of this is the ”European Institute of Innovation & Technology” which is to help make Europe more internationally competitive in terms of innovation.
If Norwegian research institutes are to continue their engagement in such European initiatives, a new funding instrument is required to enable them to participate in important EU forums that only provide a low share of the funding.
Strengthen national support
In order to ensure that Norway remains internationally competitive there must be a considerable increase in research funding from industry and the state. Part of the state contribution for research funding should be allocated to upgrading research laboratories, supporting international centres of excellence in selected areas and devising a new instrument for national co-funding of work in EU research programmes.