The universities are seeking to give the Research Council's open competitive arena for independent projects a major financial boost. The amount of their contribution will be determined by the Ministry of Education and Research's budget increase for 2012.
"Combined with the increase in our budget proposal, a funding increase of this size will really make a difference! We will be able to award grants to many more outstanding projects," says Anders Hanneborg, Executive Director of the Division for Science at the Research Council.
"We view this as a clear signal from Norwegian universities in unison about how important this open competitive arena is for them. The fact that they are willing to use resources from their basic allocations and join forces with the Ministry of Education and Research to strengthen this funding instrument is commendable."
Determined by the ministry's budget increase
The universities will match the Ministry of Education and Research's budget increase for the open competitive arena for independent projects for 2012 ' up to a ceiling of NOK 119 million. Moreover, the universities have made a binding commitment to provide an equivalent sum for the two subsequent years.
If the Ministry of Education and Research allocates the same amount of funding as the ceiling set by the universities, this will result in a total increase of NOK 238 million for 2012.
More grants to outstanding projects
Last year, due to an insufficient budget, the Research Council had to reject applications totalling NOK 271 million for grant proposals that had received the highest assessment scores (a mark of 6 or 7 on a scale from 1 to 7). It is precisely this calibre of grant proposal that will benefit from the combined funding from the universities and the Ministry ' proposals that have been given the stamp of quality by the Research Council's international referee panels, but have not been awarded grants because of limited funding.
The 2011 budget for the open competitive arena for independent projects is NOK 510 million.
Quality as trademark
"We can guarantee that excellence in relation to scientific merit will remain the trademark of this open arena," assures Mr Hanneborg.
"It is supposed to be difficult to qualify for funding for independent projects. But with a financial addition of this size we will be able to fund many more of the very best projects."
"If the proposed budget increase for 2012 is approved, the open competitive arena will have reached a magnitude that we believe should be maintained for several years to see how it works before we consider asking for additional budget increases." He adds, "the objective of this funding instrument is not to award grants to as many projects as possible, but to help to realise a greater number of outstanding projects."
Awaiting board approval
Several of the universities are awaiting the approval of their annual budgets by their boards of directors. The universities will contribute funding on the condition that the Ministry of Education and Research's budget increase for independent projects is not taken from the universities' basic allocations.