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Horizon Europe and how to make Europe and Norway fit for the digital age

On Tuesday, 20th of October, NTNU and SINTEF held their annual European Strategy Summit digitally. I took part with over 160 other participants and gained insights and information on important priorities ahead for research and innovation activities connected to the Horizon Europe-program 

We heard keynote speakers, including Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General, DG RTD, and Roberto Viola, Director-General, DG CONNECT, both from the European Commission. In addition, we were given updates from Minister of Research and Higher Education Henrik Asheim and Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø. We also gained insights and relevant commentaries from Hege Skryseth from Kongsberg Digital, among others. 

The NTNU and SINTEF European Strategy Summit 2020 is an opportunity for Norwegian civil society, businesses, academia and public sector to learn, work across sectors and disciplines to define common views and priorities that are relevant in their field.  

Last year I participated in the Summit held in Brussels, and this year`s follow-up marks an important step forward for the Norwegian participation in research and innovation activities in partnership with Europe. It was particularly gratifying that Minister of Research and Higher Education, Henrik Asheim, confirmed that a formal decision on Norway entering into the Horizon Europe-programme is imminent. I believe it is essential for Norway to participate, in order to contribute to the important goals of making Europe- and Norway- fit for the digital age. In 2019, I lifted the importance of increasing the digital competencies in Norway and Europe, in order to improve the competitiveness. We need to invest more heavily in knowledge going forward. To put it in simple terms: We need to make “A Europe and Norway fit for the digital age”. 

In the summit, Deputy Director General of European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation, Signe Ratso, underlined that Europe and nations need to deliver together on global challenges. There are important synergies between EU and Norway, and the cooperation is necessary to make EU a leader of innovation. Ratso also emphasized Norway as a key partner for EU in the research area. Norway is the second most active participant, with more than 247 program participations, in areas such as ICT, energy, transport and environment.  

Ratso said the timeline of Horizon Europe will be finalized when adopted, and that the Commission is working hard to achieve this by end of 2020. Norway`s contribution will be very important and highly appreciated. I agree, and I believe NTNUs and SINTEF`s continued efforts to connect businesses, government, academia and organizations are essential to the Norwegian contribution. Visolit certainly appreciates the initiatives from NTNU and SINTEF and recognizes the importance of including the private sectors in these efforts. Visolit remains motivated to contribute, both to strengthen cooperation between businesses, governments and academia and in order to increase the focus on competencies not just within the ICT sector, but for the Norwegian and European society 

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time 

The Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher education, Henrik Asheim, reiterated the 6 main priorities from the Commission, in particular A European Green dealand where research and innovation play an important and vital role to reach the ambitions. 

Rapid technological changes fuels innovation and research, and Norwegian actors are well placed to assist in these measures through Horizon Europe.  

Iselin NybøMinister of Trade and Industryunderlined that industry as well as research & innovation institutions are cooperating well in Norway. NTNU and SINTEF have been cooperating for more than 70 years, and this relation will be even more valuable in the future. She also said Norway is well placed to contribute to the European programme, and I agree completely. We are looking forward to seeing how we from the private businesses can contribute going forward. 

Cooperation and upskilling- not just technology, but agile and new business models! 

Sophie Hildebrand (CTO, Equinor) had an interesting session about decarbonizing the energy sector. She said that the industry, government, the consumers and academia need to work together to make green solutions that are scalable. She also said that we need to move away from proprietary thinking, it is only through the broad implementation of technology that we can work in a sustainable way. We also need to understand it is going to take time to reskill the population. I couldn`t agree more. As Executive Vice President of KONGSBERG, Hege Skryseth, said: -Digital skills is not just about technology, it is also about agile approaches, and learning end developing new business models 

The European Commission has, as I mentioned earlier, made six main priorities, of which one is making a Europe fit for the digital ageRoberto Viola (Director-General, DG CONNECT, European Commission) presented the main points from the strategy, and he underlined that without digital technology, our lives for the past 6 months would have been meagre!  Imagine the situation we would be in if we would have to tackle the pandemic without having access to our digital tools for communicating!  

As Viola underlined, everybody realizes that digital technology is essential to modern life, and that it needs to be developed in a sustainable way.  

Viola said Norway will be an important partner, and I appreciate the Commissions proactivity regarding the involvement of Norway in these issues. Boosting competencies is in many ways the key to increased competitiveness for Europe, and Norway.  That`s why Visolit is working alongside ICT Norway to advocate an increased number of available student places in ICT studies among other issues. 

In summary, Norway can continue to assume an important role in several of the European initiatives through cooperating through SINTEF and NTNU within Horizon Europe. For Visolit, it is important to contribute to a sustainable digital transformation, and we view cooperation with academia, governments and research & innovation organizations as key to achieving a better, more competent and fair society. That is why we will continue participating in initiatives through SINTEF and NTNU, and look forward to contributing to the important goals of making Europe- and Norway- fit for the digital age. We thank NTNU and SINTEF for including us in their important activities!