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Call: Nordic Centres of Excellence in Arctic Research

The submission deadline for this call has passed
Application deadline
04.03.2015 14:00
Full call title

Nordic Centres of Excellence in Arctic Research "Responsible Development of the Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges - Pathways to Action"


Given the global importance of the Arctic region, and the transnational implications of environmental change in the region, NordForsk is now initiating a larger-scale, joint Nordic Initiative on Arctic Research (hereafter 'the programme') by establishing Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE). To promote a flourishing and forward-looking Arctic region, and exploit opportunities for future value creation in a sustainable manner, there is a substantial need for new, policy-relevant knowledge. The programme will be cross-disciplinary and will strengthen the knowledge base within Arctic research in a broad sense, thereby supporting integrated research efforts in health and medicine, humanities and social sciences, and natural sciences and technology. The programme will focus on areas where joint Nordic research adds value to national initiatives (Nordic added value) and will facilitate international research cooperation at the highest level, with Arctic as well as non-Arctic countries. The programme will seek synergies with other key Nordic and international research and initiatives.

The programme has been developed in cooperation with a group of high-level representatives of the national research councils in the Nordic countries. It is funded jointly by NordForsk, the Swedish Research Council, the Research Council of Norway, the Academy of Finland, the Icelandic Centre for Research (RANNIS), the Danish Ministry for Education and Research and Greenland. NordForsk administers the programme, in cooperation with a Programme Committee of high-level representatives from the financing organisations.

What is a Nordic Centre of Excellence (NCoE)?

NCoEs are established to strengthen cooperation between outstanding researchers, research groups and research institutions within areas of priority for the Nordic countries. NCoEs add value to research performed in the countries and increase the international impact of Nordic research. An NCoE is a multi-site or single-site research environment with a common research agenda, joint management and budget, and joint communication and outreach activities.

NCoEs facilitate more efficient use of resources by gathering people, funding and infrastructure into collaborative entities, thus enabling better coordination of research efforts. They promote international researcher mobility, true interdisciplinary research, and joint use and establishment of research infrastructure. NCoEs employ an international strategy and provide joint access to the best research environments in the Nordic region, thereby helping to increase the attractiveness of the region and strengthen the linkages to and impacts on relevant European research initiatives. Through coordination of researcher education, a centre builds competence and long-lasting networks of younger researchers and enhances their career opportunities. The applicants are strongly encouraged to read the NCoE concept document thoroughly, see Annex 1.

Who is eligible to apply?

The call is open to international consortia of researchers and research groups from various sectors, including institutions of higher education, e.g., universities and other research institutions, and other organisations with a strong research focus. Participation in the previous NordForsk call for applications for planning grants (with deadline 5 June 2014) is not mandatory to apply to this NCoE call. The formal applicant must be a legal entity based in one of the countries co-funding the programme. The consortium must involve partner institutions from at least three Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden or Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands), i.e. institutions based or headquartered in one of these.

A project leader of an NCoE proposal cannot appear as project leader in another NCoE proposal under this call.

Thematic framework

The programme will invite cross-disciplinary, high quality and innovative NCoE proposals on topics relevant to a responsible development of the Arctic region. The thematic framework for the programme is:

- Drivers of change in the Arctic region - interactions and impacts
The programme aims to support analyses of interactions between various natural and societal drivers of change in the Arctic region. New knowledge is needed to increase our understanding of how these processes interact and affect societies and the environment.

- Arctic resource development in a global context
The Arctic region faces new challenges as well as opportunities regarding value creation in sectors such as energy production, extraction of minerals and metals, construction, tourism, fisheries and shipping. The programme will support NCoEs that analyse this development, its environmental and social impacts in the Arctic region and beyond, as well as the implications of these elements for a responsible development of the Arctic region in a global context.

- Waters, ecologies and life environments
Global climate change has consequences for various kinds of life environments in the Arctic region, both natural systems and human societies. Cross-disciplinary NCoEs that add new knowledge relating to the impact of these developments for the future physical and living environment and ecosystems (especially the hydrological cycle), industry and societies will be supported.

The thematic framework guiding this call for proposals is further elaborated in the programme memorandum, see Annex 2. All applicants are strongly encouraged to read the programme memorandum thoroughly.

Financial framework

The call for proposals is funded through a common pot provided by the funding partners of the programme, which currently are: NordForsk, the Swedish Research Council (pending the decision of the Board of the Swedish Research Council in December), the Research Council of Norway, the Academy of Finland, the Icelandic Centre for Research (RANNIS), the Danish Ministry for Education and Research and Greenland. The total budget is around 85 million NOK. The call is administered by NordForsk.

NCoE status and funding will be granted for a period of five years.

Three to four NCoEs will be funded.

Funding will be granted for Nordic research collaboration as specified in the proposal. The funding can be used to fund researchers and research groups at academic institutions and research institutes in the Nordic countries. The funding can also be used for visits to the Nordic node(s) by non-Nordic researchers and for visits to non-Nordic research environments by Nordic researchers. To fulfil its goals, an NCoE on Arctic research should also include participation of non-Nordic nodes funded by other sources (direct funds or in kind) and specified in the proposed budget.

Eligibility criteria

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

  • The leader of the NCoE must be an established senior researcher based at a research institution in one of the Nordic countries funding the programme (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Greenland).
  • The formal applicant's host institution will enter into a contract with NordForsk, and will be responsible for the administration of the project. The grant will be transferred to this institution. A prerequisite is that the formal applicant signs a consortium agreement with the other partners proposed in the application.
  • The NCoE consortium must involve researchers or research groups from at least three Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands), i.e. from institutions based or headquartered in one of these. Letters of intent, expressing a binding institutional commitment from their institutions, are required for all NCoE partners.
  • In addition, the NCoEs are strongly encouraged to include partners from countries outside the Nordic region. The non-Nordic partners must document their financial contribution to the total budget of the NCoE.
  • Proposals must include an overall budget detailing the expected costs for the NCoE and a specification of how these costs will be distributed among the different funding sources, including funding sought from NordForsk.
  • Financial own contribution is required, either as in-kind contribution or from other external sources. The partners' own financial contributions (cash and in-kind) should be accounted for in the proposal.
  • The NCoE must have a cross-disciplinary focus (integrating excellent research within health and medicine, humanities and social sciences, and natural sciences and technology).
  • Proposals must include a plan for contributing to open science in accordance with Science Europe's Principles for the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications.
  • Proposals must include a description of the relevant legal and ethical frameworks and procedures needed to perform the research.
  • In accordance with its gender policy, NordForsk promotes gender balance among researchers as well as gender perspectives within the research activity as important aspects of research quality. All NCoEs that receive funding from NordForsk must describe how gender perspectives will be incorporated or given consideration in the proposed NCoE.
Assessment criteria

The proposal for NCoEs will be assessed according to the following:

  • Quality (excellence) of the planned research; relevance to the programme, innovativeness, novelty of research, and quality of the research plan (bearing in mind that the NCoE must have an interdisciplinary focus).
  • Competence of the applicants, including scientific merits and output, academic leadership, and experience and skills related to project management and operation.
  • Expected results and impact of the planned NCoE, including long-term scientific, economic and environmental impact of the cooperation, also bearing in mind the need for capacity building in the Arctic region.
  • Feasibility and rigour of the project plan in relation to proposed resources (human resources, budget, schedule).
  • Added value of the Nordic cooperation, including justification as to why the NCoE should be carried out as a joint Nordic effort.
  • International cooperation; applications should demonstrate how the proposed NCoE will facilitate and develop cooperation with non-Nordic research groups within Arctic research.
  • The extent to which users of research results (industry, policymakers, local communities etc) are involved in the project. Their contribution to the project is to be specified in the project plan.
  • Gender perspectives in the research and gender aspects of the organisation.
  • Contribution to open science/open access to research data.

The assessment of the research plan will be weighted more heavily than the other components. Note that the assessment of the research plan includes an assessment of the feasibility of the proposed budget describing the total costs and overall funding contributions to the NCoE, including the impact of the funding requested from NordForsk.

Processing of proposals

Proposals should be submitted electronically through NordForsk Application Portal no later than 4 March 2015 at 14.00 CET. Proposals must be submitted in English. No attachments are allowed, unless specifically requested in the application form. The application form is based on the eligibility criteria and assessment criteria stated above, and can be found in its complete form at NordForsk Application Portal. In order to access the application form you must register as a user at NordForsk Application Portal and create an application draft.

The final funding decision will be taken by the NordForsk Board, based on assessments by international independent experts (peer review) and the subsequent recommendation of the Programme Committee.

NordForsk's Guidelines on Impartiality will be applied to avoid conflicts of interest in the prioritisation and funding decisions.

Written feedback from the assessment will be provided to the applicants via NordForsk. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of the funding decision, and NordForsk will initiate contract negotiations with the approved NCoEs and their host organisations shortly thereafter. The NCoEs are expected to launch their activities late in 2015 or early 2016.

Management and organisation

NordForsk will sign a contract with the hosting institution for the NCoE in which the exact funding rates and details are stated. The grant will be transferred to this institution and a consortium agreement regulates the relations between the institutions involved in the centre. NordForsk administers the funding, and will manage and further develop the programme in collaboration with the Programme Committee.

The Project Leader will be responsible for and support the implementation of human resource strategies for researchers in line with the basic principles of the EU Charter for Researchers and the EU Code for the Recruitment of Researchers. In order to support cross-border mobility, any new positions within the Nordic Centre of Excellence must be announced internationally in open competition and according to transparent and merit-based recruitment procedures, in line with the basic principles of the EU Charter for Researchers and the EU Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. Vacancies for first-stage, recognised, established and leading researchers are as far as possible to be advertised on the EURAXESS Jobs portal.

In order to facilitate the best scientific progress, the NCoE should receive regular and structured scientific advice from internationally renowned non-Nordic scientists in its field of research. NordForsk will therefore appoint a Scientific Advisory Board for the NCoEs.

Performance of the NCoE will be monitored through annual progress reports comprising a scientific progress report and a financial report. After three years of operation, a midterm evaluation will be performed, and a more comprehensive progress report will be assessed, before granting the NCoE the last two years of funding. A final evaluation of the results and impact of the programme will be conducted after the end of the funding period.

Max applied amount (NOK)
Responsible adviser

Marianne Røgeberg, Head of Arctic Affairs
+47 905 37 041

Responsible adviser

Hanne Silje Hauge, Adviser
+47 926 25 883

Technical support

For technical support, please contact: or +47 905 51 520

NordForsk, Stensberggata 25, 0170 Oslo, Tlf: +47 476 14 400, E-post:, Organisasjonsnummer: 971 274 255