The demand is good news for foreign students and researchers who might be interested in living and working in Norway, says Nina Therese Maubach, advisor at the Research Council of Norway and national contact point for the People programme, a part of the European Union’s 7th Framework programme. “For foreigners with the expertise we need –science, technology and engineering – they will come to a market full of options,” Maubach says. Studies show that foreign researchers choose Norway due to its excellent working conditions and first-rate research communities. Along with its highly developed infrastructure and optimal career opportunities, most research and development work in industry is closely linked with universities and colleges – which makes for a dynamic learning situation. Other important reasons for choosing Norway are a generally high standard of living and a family-friendly society.
The EU’s 7th Framework programme includes Q4.75 billion to support the People Programme and funding for researcher mobility under the Marie Curie Actions programme. The Marie Curie programme is applicable to PhDs and postdocs as well as more seasoned researchers, Maubach says.
Climate Research to Bioprospecting
Norwegian research encompasses a broad range of topics, including chemical processing.
Some of the hottest research areas in Norway are being funded by the Research Council in the form of broad-based “Large-Scale Programmes” currently covering seven different disciplines –
including functional genomics, climate research, information and communications technology, and petroleum research. Another Research Council focus is the Centre for Research-based Innovation (CRI) programme. Over the next eight years, the Research Council will allocate a total of NOK 1 billion to the initiative, which is based on a collaborative effort between Norwegian research and industry.
Basic research is funded partly through the Research Council’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) programme. Twenty-one centres are spread throughout Norway’s academic institutions to take advantage of the country’s considerable expertise in fields as diverse as aquaculture and the study of geohazards. A foreign researcher interested in working in any of these projects would typically seek a position with the university or institute housing the programme instead of applying directly to the Research Council for funding, Maubach says.
“The Norwegian economy depends largely on natural resources, and we also have emerging new research fields, such as thorium as an energy source, and bioprospecting,” Maubach says. “These are fields where we need scientific expertise, which to some extent we do not have.”
Applied Research & Teamwork
Researchers interested in applying their expertise to real-world situations will find themselves at home in Norway’s universities and research institutes. The country’s economy depends on the use of natural resources – whether it’s winning oil from the deeps of the North Sea, or farming healthy, fast-growing salmon – which often poses technological challenges that are solved by collaborative efforts between industry and research institutions.
That was one of the big appeals for Karen Valencia, a research scientist at SINTEF Petroleum Research in Trondheim. Valencia came from the Philippines with a PhD in petroleum engineering, and was particularly attracted by the close cooperation between SINTEF and its corporate clients. “Usually when you’re a researcher crunching numbers, you don’t have real numbers to work with,” she says. “But here, we can apply our clients’ actual data – and you can see real results.”
Norway’s cutting-edge research in information and communications technology combined with other areas of research allows for the creation of virtual-reality programmes that help in petroleum technology© Gorm Kallestad/ NTNU Info
Another key feature of Norway’s research environment is the willingness of people to work cooperatively in teams, says JoLynn Carroll, an American who is research director at Akvaplan-niva’s Polar Environmental Center in Tromsø. “It’s not so cut-throat,” she says. “People here tend to work better in teams – they’re more willing to accept people’s differences in a positive fashion.”
Carroll says she thought it was easy for foreign researchers to be accepted into a Norwegian research team, partly because Norwegians are quite comfortable speaking English. “English is the primary language of research, and Norwegians are very used to doing their science in English,” she says. “Many of the universities are teaching certain courses in English, and it is opening up more and more every year.”
Ra Cleave, a senior engineer at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, says a major difference between Norway and his native land of New Zealand in terms of research was that Norway was far less bureaucratic. The Research Council “is great in how they organize their applications for research funding,” he says.
But Cleave says perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of his research was Norway’s participation in European Union projects, with all the associated cross-cultural experiences. Norway participates in approximately 10 percent of all EU research programmes, with the EU financing roughly NOK 2 billion in Norwegian research. During the funding for the 6th Framework programme, Norway took part in 1,480 applications, of which 390, or 26 percent, were recommended for funding. That’s a success rate 9 percent over the EU average (17 percent).
“The EU projects are big, they’re ambitious, and they involve a lot of different countries,” Cleave says. “You find yourself working with people from Spain, Italy, France – you get this incredible dynamism, a lot of energy and different ideas. And you learn about the cultures too.”