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Call: Sustainable Urban Development and Smart Cities: A Call for proposals for research projects

The submission deadline for this call has passed
Application deadline
04.06.2019 14:00

The Nordic Programme on Sustainable Urban Development and Smart Cities is a collaborative effort between the Academy of Finland; Formas - a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development; Forte: the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, the Swedish Energy Agency; the Research Council of Norway; and NordForsk.

The aim of the Nordic Programme on Sustainable Urban Development and Smart Cities is to promote cooperation between the knowledge communities in the Nordic countries in order to enhance opportunities and address challenges relating to sustainable urban development and smart cities. The main objectives of the programme are to enhance Nordic research collaboration and to fund excellent research with impact within and beyond academia. The programme seeks to develop innovative and interdisciplinary analyses and methods in studies of urban development smart cities and use of essential knowledge for successful implementation. The Programme is now issuing a call for proposals for research projects.

Aim of the Call and Thematic Framework

The overarching aim of the call is to address challenges of urban and regional life in cities of all sizes through thorough analysis, and use of essential knowledge for successful implementation.

The call encourages interdisciplinary cooperation between different research fields from socio-economic sciences and humanities to natural sciences and engineering, and to health sciences. The call will help to expand capacity in the Nordic research communities, and encourage greater cooperation between researchers and research communities in the Nordic countries, as well as between researchers and the users of research, such as public authorities, city networks, and relevant private sector actors. 

A key aim of the call is to challenge the established concepts of smartness and sustainability. The Programme sees smartness as more than technological solutions in the infrastructure of a city. Smart solutions are at all levels of knowledge and technology; they are found in the physical structures, accessible urban services, and innovative administrative solutions. The call will fund projects that introduce smart and sustainable innovations that are accessible to different types of cities and societal groups, e.g. medium-sized or small communities in the remote areas where physical and social conditions are demanding,  large cities and their neighbourhoods as well as different demographic groups.

Applicants are encouraged to incorporate early, continuous and active engagement with stakeholders, such as policymakers, civil society, and the private sector, into the project design.

The Programme has two overarching perspectives:

  • Integration of different dimensions of urban sustainability in the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Co-production – a means of expanding research activities to bridge gaps between knowledge, understanding, and action

All proposals must address both perspectives.

The programme focuses on the following targeted themes:

  • Challenges to basic human needs (e.g. water, food, renewable energy, waste management, and fossil-free transport systems) and scaling of their integrated solutions
  • Inclusiveness and equal opportunities as preconditions for human well-being and sense of identity
  • Heritage, decision structures and planning processes
  • Physical, mental, and economic barriers, segregation and urban structures
  • Global change (including climate change) and local urban life
  • The balance of powers and shared understanding in urban planning and housing

All proposals must address two or more of the targeted themes. The overarching perspectives and individual themes are further elaborated in the Programme Memorandum, and applicants are advised to carefully read this document.

Nordic added value of the Programme

Nordic collaboration will create outcomes and impact of greater value for the countries involved than could be achieved through national activities alone. Examples of such added value could be building critical mass, networking, sharing data, infrastructures and resources, and enhancing scientific excellence as well as creating societal impact and contributing to research-based policymaking.

Communication and knowledge exchange

To ensure impact beyond academia, knowledge sharing, interaction and communication with key stakeholders in the Nordic countries is necessary; the Projects must incorporate a plan for communication and knowledge exchange.

The plan should include a description of actions and how they will be implemented, measured and evaluated and a realistic budget including allocation of personnel. The plan will make visible how the research-based knowledge will be used in collaboration with stakeholders to enhance practice and policy.

Financial framework
  • Salaries and indirect costs of researchers (including overheads);
  • PhD and post-doctoral positions;
  • Research-related costs (such as data collection and analysis, Open Access charges);
  • Project-related costs (such as collaboration activities with project partners and stakeholders);
  • Communication, dissemination and knowledge exchange activities;
  • Travel/accommodation n costs and mobility for the project partners;
  • Travel/accommodation costs for other participants including stakeholders;
  • Administrative expenses.

The research consortium is expected to contribute significant amount of its own financing in addition to the NordForsk funding received.*

The contribution from the consortium partners must be documented in the budget specified in the application form.

Partner institutions outside the Nordic countries may participate with their own funding. Salaries for applicants not affiliated to a research institution in the Nordic countries cannot be claimed as part of the project costs. However, travel and accommodation costs may be covered.

*This is to show that there are other resources available (cash or in-kind) to support a successful implementation of the research. There is no set amount or percentage, the applicant estimates the appropriate amount of external funding needed, depending on the volume of the project and planned research activities.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for funding, the following conditions must be met:

  • Proposals must be submitted electronically through NordForsk Application Portal by the call deadline.
  • All proposals must be written in English and follow the structure set out in the application form available on the NordForsk Call and Application Portal.
  • The research project must include partners from research performing organisations in at least three Nordic countries. Nordic countries are defined here as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland Islands.
  • The host institution (Project Owner) for the research project must be a research performing organisation based in one of the countries co-funding the call: Finland, Norway, Sweden.
  • The project leader must be a qualified researcher at the host institution.
  • A researcher may only serve as a project leader for one application under this call. However, research institutions may be affiliated with more than one application.
  • Researchers and research groups must be based at institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations with a strong research focus.
  • The proposal must include a signed Letter of Commitment from each partner institution. Letters of Commitment must be signed by a person authorized to take on financial commitments on behalf of the institution for the entire duration of the project.
  • The proposal must address two or more of the targeted themes and indicate which in the checklist of the application form.

Applications that do not fulfil the above eligibility criteria will not be processed.

Submission of proposals

The Project Leader must submit proposals electronically through the NordForsk Call and Application Portal no later than 14.00 CEST on 4 June 2019. To access the application form, the Project Leader must register as a user at the NordForsk Application Portal.

The proposal must contain all supporting documents as requested below:

  • NordForsk proposal form as specified in application portal.
  • Research plan (max ten pages, including references).
  • An overall budget detailing the expected costs for the project.
  • A specification of how the costs will be distributed among the different funding sources, including funding sought from NordForsk. The project partners' own contribution (cash and in-kind) to the project must be documented (see instructions in the application portal).
  • CV, including a short list of max 10 publications (max three pages for Project Leader and max one page for each key researcher).
  • Description of research teams, gender balance in the project consortium (standard template) Please consult the NordForsk's guidelines on gender policy.
  • Letters of Commitment.
Assessment criteria

All eligible proposals will be rated using a scale 1-7 (1=poor; 2= weak, 3= fair 4= good, 5= very good, 6= excellent, 7= outstanding) based on the criteria described below, and a written statement will be provided.

An international expert panel will assess the proposals according to the following criteria:

  • Scientific quality of the research proposal including
    • Ethical aspects and how these are planned to be handled
    • Expected research results, societal relevance, and potential for impact
    • Gender perspectives of the research
  • Research idea, its novelty, and originality;
  • Quality of the research team and, if relevant, measures to improve the gender balance of the project team composition
  • Feasibility and rigour of the project plan in relation to proposed resources (human resources, budget, schedule)/ Value for money
  • Relevance to the call
  • Stakeholder involvement plan including the role of stakeholders in the proposal preparation
  • Communication and knowledge exchange plan (including open access to publications and data)
  • The added value of the proposed research collaboration for the Nordic region.

Programme Committee will assess:

See further annex - Assessment criteria and guiding questions

Processing of proposals

NordForsk's guidelines on impartiality will be applied to handle possible conflicts of interest.

Based on the assessments of the expert panel, the Nordic added value of the projects, and the balance of the project portfolio the Programme Committee will submit a recommendation of projects to be awarded funding to the NordForsk Board, which will take the final funding decision. This is expected to take place in the late autumn of 2019.

The funding decision will be announced in late 2019. All applicants will receive written feedback from the expert panel.

Management and monitoring of the Research Projects

NordForsk will sign a contract with the host institution for the project, and this contract will set out the specific funding rates and details in accordance with NordForsk Standard Terms and Conditions of Contract. The grant will be disbursed to this institution and a consortium agreement regulating the rights and obligations of the various institutions involved in the project must be drawn up. NordForsk will not transfer any funds before the consortium agreement has been signed. The research projects will be monitored through annual reporting consisting of a scientific progress report and a financial report. A final report must be submitted to NordForsk at the end of the funding period.

The Project Leader will be responsible for the implementation of human resource strategies for researchers in keeping with the basic principles of the EU Charter for Researchers and the EU Code for the Recruitment of Researchers.

Max amount of funding that may be sought (NOK million):


Responsible adviser:

Kyösti Lempa, Senior Adviser
Phone: +47 94 88 65 36

Responsible adviser:

Anna Herou, Senior Adviser
Phone: +47 480 63 139

Technical support

Phone: +47 905 51 520

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