EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

The Research Council of Norway (RCN)

Phase: Anticipation
  • Access to finance
  • Support for digitalisation
  • Transition to a climate-neutral economy
  • Fostering innovation
  • Matching/Networking
  • Support of internationalisation
  • Support of SMEs
Zuletzt geändert: 03 August, 2021
Ursprünglicher Name:

Norges Forskningsråd (NFR)

Englischer Name:

The Research Council of Norway (RCN)


The Research Council’s services are available to all companies that are already involved in or wish to conduct research activities.

Main characteristics

The Research Council of Norway (NFR) is a strategic funding agency for research activities, as well as an important supplier of input into research policy for the government, the central government administration and the research community. NOK10 billion (€959.83 million) was allocated to research and innovation by the Research Council in 2019. 

A number of NFR activities are aimed at companies. They include, among others, innovation projects initiated by companies, an industrial PhD project, and the setting up of networks. In the case of innovation projects, the Research Council will finance up to 50% of the costs involved. Funding is also available for the commercialisation of findings.

The Research Council offers a wide range of activities, from start-up help to funding for more advanced research projects, network-building and centre schemes (establishment and operation of specially designated centres of research like The Centres for Research-based Innovation scheme). 

Its activities include:

  • Support for innovation projects;
  • User-driven innovation projects, which include some 80% of the industry-oriented research projects receiving Research Council funding;
  • Tax deduction scheme - SkatteFUNN - where all types of companies may apply for a tax deduction for costs related to research and development.


  • Regional funds
  • National funds

Involved actors

National government
Funding; the NFR is a statutory agency.
Regional/local government
Regional research funds are organised by the NFR.
Public employment services
Might be partners in research activities
Employer or employee organisations
Employer organisations and trade union confederations may be involved in advisory committees, such as those set up for specific programmes.
Universities and research institutes, companies and other organisations that are involved in research activities.


No information available.


The Norwegian Research Council was reviewed in 2017. The expert committee underscored a positive development in Norwegian research, measured in publications and citations, and that the Research Council in general fullfills its role in a good way. 

The Research Council was also evaluated in 2012 - A Good Council? Evaluation of the Research Council of Norway. The evaluation shows that user-directed Research & Development (R&D) instruments are useful to increase business expenditure on R&D. It leads to industrial innovation (enough of which is economically successful to generate significant private returns), generates important knowledge and capability spillovers and leads companies (especially smaller ones) to want to do more R&D. The private and public returns to industrial R&D are both high. While it could be argued that state funding of industrial R&D will crowd out private investment and induce companies to invest in the wrong things (‘picking winners’), the evidence shows the opposite. NFR-funding ‘crowds in’ private investment; the private returns induced are about the same as companies get from their own investments in R&D; and the societal returns are higher. The fiscal incentive is a useful way to help small companies begin to do more R&D, generating high private returns but limited externalities. As companies’ R&D expenditures rise, NFR’s selective approach becomes more appropriate because it increases externalities, it can support agglomeration (including around national priorities) and it avoids the problem that larger companies tend to free ride on tax incentives.


In the 2017 review, the expert committee recommended a less complex grant system and a more exclusive focus on improving the quality of research, arguing that the Council had too many and diverse goals. Several changes have since been implemented to achieve this. This includes changes to the organisational structure, a reorganisation of application procedures and deadlines, a common procedure for evaluating applications across programmes, and new evaluation criteria focused on excellence, impact and efficiency of implementation. 

The overall impression of the 2012 evaluation was that NFR is very good at reacting to defined needs and ‘serving its customers’, but the NFR did not score so high when it comes to being proactive. The NFR probably needs other mechanisms than what they have today in order to be proactive, including the ability to conduct diagnostic and prospective studies, fund small-scale, promising developments on its own initiative and consider explicitly addressing high-risk and interdisciplinary research. If these elements are strengthened, the NFR's ‘change agent’ role could be stronger.


No information available.
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