The idea for the new initiative has part of its roots in the government’s White Paper on Innovation Policy from December 2009. At that point, it was mostly about focusing on development of environmentally friendly technology as part of combining measures between industrial policies and attaining environmental goals. Norway’s Ministries of Industry and Environment established a strategic council that identified the gap between research and development and commercialization. This was used as the basis for the new environmental technology initiative launched this May.
One of the problems the new strategy addresses is the lack of coordination between the different organizations. There are many Norwegian groups promoting environmentally friendly technology. The Research Council of Norway allocates funds through programmes Clean Energy for the Future (RENERGI) and User-driven Research Based Innovation (BIA), Enova has the New Technology programme, and Innovation Norway issues grants through Industrial Research and Development (IFU), just to name a few. The conundrum has been for businesses to correctly select which type to apply for.
“There are several schemes. If you were a business, you would wonder which one you should go for and that has been presented as a problem,” said Carl Gjersem, senior advisor in the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s research and innovation department
The government has therefore set up a new system that will ensure more coordination and less confusion. In May, the government nominated Innovation Norway to lead the new government strategy for environmental technology known as Business Development and Green Growth with a NOK 500 million budget from 2011- 2013. One of the things Innovation Norway will be striving for is to increase the dialogue among these groups. For example, it will work on having the different organizations coordinate better on the timing of proposals so that they are spaced better for participants.
Innovation Norway has overall responsibility for the programme as secretariat. It will guide the three other organizations getting funds from this programme – the Research Council, Enova and Transnova – as well as participating organizations GIEK (guarantee institute for export credit), Eksportsfinans (Norwegian export credit institution for export financing), Climate and Pollution Agency (KLIF), Gassnova (state-owned enterprise for CO2 capture and storage), and Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (SIVA). Trondheim-based SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research organization, will be leading the advisory board.
The new strategy will give the participating organizations a total of NOK 167 million per year in additional funds, but with a much broader purpose. Innovation Norway will receive the largest amount, NOK 117 million. The state-owned enterprises Enova will receive NOK 20 million per annum to promote offshore wind efforts and Transnova, NOK 20 million for environmentally friendly transport technology. The remaining NOK 10 million will go to the Research Council towards three of their Centres for Excellence within environmentally friendly technology.
“There is a very comprehensive definition of environmental technology,” said Gjersem. “It includes industries that contributes toward reduced emissions and makes it broader.”
So far, Innovation Norway has allocated about one third of the total NOK 257 million in funds it has this year for environmental technology. That includes NOK 140 million, which was allocated from a previous programme that started in 2010. The types of projects that received funds this year vary widely and include companies within solar, offshore wind, wave energy, NOx reduction, waste heat electricity, water purification, forestry and mapping.
“This is not limited to any technology and not restricted to where you are in the value chain,” said Ole Jakob Sørdalen, Innovation Norway sector head for energy and the environment. “It could be in the manufacturing end, where it improves costs.”
The single largest industry to get support so far this year has been offshore wind. Sway Turbine is slated to receive NOK 22 million in support to develop the world’s largest windmill. The company has received funding in the past to demonstrate a new wind turbine prototype under Envoa’s support programme Renewable Marine Power Generation. The company received NOK 137 million last year to construct a 10 MW wind turbine in Øygarden in Hordaland County, where the new technology will be tested on land.
Sway Turbine has developed a concept together with Norwegian technology company Smartmotor that will reduce the turbine weight, number of moving parts, and gearless generator system. The company says this will result in a higher energy generation for offshore wind power and hence lower operating costs.
“The drivers clearly are business development,” said Sørdalen. “It’s not just saving the earth and climate. That will be the secondary effect.”
These grants differ from previous initiatives, such as Innovation Norway’s IFU, which required a third-party contributing client to help fund the project. Another difference with the new programme is that it also opens up for big companies to also qualify for grants. Innovation Norway’s largest environmental technology funded project so far has been a NOK 58 million grant to Borregaard to build a pilot plant for second-generation bioethanol. The company has developed new technology for production of bioethanol and green chemicals from biomass such as straw and other types of agricultural and forestry waste.