RCN in the Norwegian research and innovation system

Stefan Kuhlmann, Erik Arnold

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RCN is one of a number of actors in the innovation infrastructure: the institutions which support the processes of creating and using knowledge. The other important actors include SND, which provides grants and loans for economic development; SIVA, which runs science and industry parks, providing needed infrastructure; and various sources of venture capital. Norway faces significant challenges in industry and innovation policy. In order to maintain historical rates of growth in income and welfare, it can not simply rely on exploiting oil and gas reserves. A significant restructuring of industry is needed, building on existing strengths but also diversifying into newer and more knowledge-based industries. Existing industry is certainly capable of much further development, but its knowledge-intensity has natural limits, so Norway has at the same time to use the existing resources and give birth to new industries. Despite the openness of the economy, Norwegian industry has surprisingly poor knowledge links with abroad. Tackling these challenges requires that there is a well-developed knowledge infrastructure in the form of colleges, universities and research institutes, that business capabilities are developed, and that new and existing firms have the ‘absorptive capacity’ needed to make use of externally generated knowledge. There are significant market and structural failures here, which is why many countries devote a lot of resources to helping these aspects of the innovation system to work well. RCN, SIVA, the venture capitalists and SND together cover much of the needed policy spectrum. However, there is a gap in the area of an innovation policy authority – something like TEKES in Finland or the former NTNF, which links R&D-based knowledge directly into industrial activity and economic development. This gap currently coincides with the boundary between RCN and SND. These agencies run some joint programmes in this area, but there is little strategic interconnection and the partnership appears somewhat unloved at the operational level. If the gap widens, and the link between business development and technological capability development becomes weaker than it is today, this will create and important obstacle to company development, reducing the national ability to address the challenges described above. This is especially the case with the ‘value creation gap’ between likely GDP based on following current trajectories and the GDP growth needed to sustain welfare. In the Norwegian institutional context, it is not clear that it would be useful to build a new innovation agency, for example on the model of Finland’s very successful TEKES. We present four options for tackling the policy gap. We are not able in this study to analyse all aspects of the potential solutions. However, the option of transforming the present RCN/SND alliance from a ‘nice to have’ co-operation agreement into a managed cost centre, with its own budget and set of external links and responsibilities, is to us more attractive than alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherTechnopolis Group
Number of pages47
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001


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