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Based on bilateral agreement:Nano initiative to enhance French-Norwegian cooperation

Nano and materials technology was identified as one of six priority areas under the bilateral research and technology agreement signed between France and Norway in 2008. A major joint seminar in Paris on 9-10 June forms part of the effort to translate the intentions into action.

In recent years much of the R&D cooperation between France and Norway has focused on the area of energy, in particular oil and gas. This has its roots in Norway’s extensive oil recovery activity, in which French actors have been involved from the outset.

The bilateral research and technology agreement between France and Norway, signed by Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland and French Minister for Higher Education and Research Valérie Pécresse in 2008, also encompassed a number of other scientific priorities. In addition to nanotechnology the two countries agreed to collaborate on joint initiatives in the fields of research infrastructure, the northern areas, space research, mathematics and agriculture, climate and food.

A unique agreement
“It is interesting to note that France is the only European country with which Norway has a bilateral research agreement,” states Kristin Danielsen, who heads the International Coordinating Committee at the Research Council.

“The agreement is an umbrella agreement that encompasses previous agreements signed by the two countries. It provides a framework for and strengthens cooperation already established with France,” explains Ms Danielsen.

Foundation with an important network
The Research Council is working closely with the French-Norwegian Foundation for Scientific and Technical Research and Industrial Development on the practical aspects of implementing the agreement. The French-Norwegian Foundation was established in 1983 to promote research cooperation between the two countries.

Since its establishment the Foundation has provided funding for over 100 French-Norwegian R&D projects. The Foundation administers an annual allocation of NOK 3 million. The Norwegian contribution is funded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“The extensive network of the French-Norwegian Foundation is just as important as the money it provides. It is crucial to our current efforts to expand cooperation between Norway and France further,” says Randi Aarekol Basmadjian, who heads the Foundation secretariat.

As Ms Basmadjian explains, funding from the Foundation, despite being limited, has triggered a great deal of activity, not least because it increases the potential for receiving funding from other European and national programmes.

“Several of the projects have been continued under the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7),” she points out.

Seminar to act as an incubator
The seminar for French and Norwegian researchers in Paris on 9-10 June will be a catalyst for the joint initiative on nano and materials technology.

“The seminar was planned as an incubator for new and lasting research cooperation,” says Special Adviser Vidar Skagestad. Mr Skagestad is programme coordinator for the Research Council’s Large-scale programme Nanotechnology and New Materials (NANOMAT) and is a member of the working group responsible for following up the bilateral agreement.

A key objective of the seminar is to discuss the foundation for joint applications to the next call for proposals under the FP7 in the autumn of 2011

Seeking to strengthen EU-oriented cooperation
France is Norway’s third most important partner country in terms of the number of projects awarded funding under the FP7 to date. 
Some 20 projects involving joint French-Norwegian cooperation exist in the area of nanotechnology, materials and production.

“We have a good starting point, but there is room for more activity. We are confident that meeting places such as the Paris seminar will lead to expanded cooperation and new joint grant applications,” says Ms Danielsen.

Nano initiative: a model for cooperation
"There is already a lot of constructive cooperation between French and Norwegian researchers, but with the French-Norwegian Foundation as a partner we hope to expand this cooperation even further,” states Mr Skagestad. He is interested in the substantial French R&D commitment in the area of nano and materials technology in particular.

Ms Danielsen describes cooperation in the field of nanotechnology as a pilot project for the implementation of the Research Council’s strategy on international cooperation for the period 2010-2020.

“Both France and Norway have national thematic programmes in areas of priority for the EU. In the field of nanotechnology we have already gained valuable experience of how bilateral cooperation is enhanced when these programmes work together,” says Ms Danielsen. “This is something we should draw on in our general efforts to develop bilateral cooperation between France and Norway in general.”

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