Norway puts the fun back into innovation funding
An innovative system for promoting innovation would be a fair description of a new system inaugurated by the Norwegian research council. Named FUNN, it is designed to address Norwegian companies' low level of applied research, and help foster an innovative climate at the same time. It is also one of the least bureaucratic funding schemes available for innovation in Europe. The scheme is simple. If a Norwegian company links up with a research centre or institute, be it Norwegian or international, the company can submit a request for funding to the scheme on the internet. An answer will be given in two weeks. If there has been no answer, the company automatically qualifies. The application process is fully automated and fast. There is 200 million krona (roughly 25.3 million euro) a year available for this scheme (50 million krona (6.3 million euro) of which is provided by the research council, which is hosting the scheme). The conditions are minimal - the applicant company must be financially stable and must be funding at least 75 per cent of the project's cost already to qualify. Funding of up to 1 million krona (126,000 euro) per application will be available. 'This will be run on a first come first served basis,' says Roger Strøm, project manager of the FUNN scheme. Mr Strøm has been working on ensuring that the scheme works as smoothly and quickly as possible. The aim is to have all relevant information no more than two clicks away on the application website. And the average initial response to funding applications is 15 to 20 minutes. He points out that this will not only help Norwegian companies have a better focus on the importance of research and development, but will also help them to collaborate more. Increased numbers of companies in applications means increased allocations. 'And this can lead to better connections for smaller companies by linking with larger ones,' he says. There is also a freedom in the subject matter of the project, as no evaluation of this takes place in terms of its priority or its ethical implications. FUNN aims to make the process as simple as possible. 'This scheme is not mutually exclusive with other types of funding,' says Mr Strøm. 'In fact you can use this money while you are waiting for European Union funding to come through.'