A Message from the CEO

Klas H. Pettersen
“We are now three years into the NORA collaboration, but the journey has just begun.”
NORA was established as a collaboration within Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotics (hereinafter referred to as “AI”) between six universities and one research institute on 21 November 2018. NORA’s secretariat has been ope­rational since April 2019. This report cov­ers the time period from 2018 ­ early 2022.

During these three years, NORA has grown from seven to fifteen partners. Eight universities, three university colleges and four research institutes now form Norway’s most powerful AI collaboration. Such a wide­ranging and strong collaboration within one specific field is unprecedent­ed in Norwegian academia. In addition, one of NORA’s initiatives, NORA.startup, includes 30 of the most interesting AI startup companies in Norway.

I strongly believe that AI is the most important technology of our time and that in the future, we will look back at this time as the golden age of AI in a similar way as we now look back on the golden age of electricity in the late 19th century or the golden age of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. However, the desire to collaborate in AI among Norwegian institutions not only reflects the importance of this field, but it also shows that AI is a field that greatly benefits from collaboration. AI research and development often utilise larger infrastructure, datasets and may be compute intensive. In addition, AI is not only a basic research field, but it is also an applied field with a pronounced societal impact. Through collaboration NORA adds value to the Norwegian AI community, making it possible to achieve more than we can do alone. This was also highlighted by Norway’s former Minister of Digitalisation, Nikolai Astrup, in his speech at NORA ́s kick­off in 2019 where he said: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

NORA’s vision is international relevance and excellence in AI research, education and innovation for Norwegian universities and research institutions. NORA’s first term runs to 31 March 2022, when NORA will be reorganised in order to reflect the growing number of partners, responsi­bilities and initiatives. In this First Term Report, you can read about our work to fulfil this vision.
There are many high­lights: NORA’s research school, a nation­al research school for researchers and students at NORA’s partners supported and funded by the Research Council of Norway; NORA.startup, NORA’s innova­tion branch which has been recognised by Innovation Norway as an innovation ecosystem for AI; NORA.EU, NORA’s EU network for AI supported by the Research Council of Norway; Nordic Machine Intelli­gence, NORA ́s newly created free and open journal for AI; MedAI Transparency in Medical Image Segmentation, a data competition which was a huge success with its 17 paper publications; Nordic AIMeet, an annual Nordic conference for young researchers; NORA’s annual conference; CLAIRE’s Oslo office, NORA’s office is the host for CLAIRE; Female role models changing the field of AI in Norway, a campaign receiving attention from far outside Norway’s borders; AIdirectory.no, an overview of the field of AI in Norway to mention a few. NORA has also been able to follow up many important research and innovation projects, among them AI­-Mind, Norway’s largest EU-funded research and innovation project. NORA has organised more than 100 events of varying size, such as webinars, talks and podcasts. The most successful was a two­-day digital workshop on AlphaFold and RoseTTAFold with more than 600 attendees from over 40 countries. NORA has sent out monthly newsletters with almost 1,500 subscribers and has been visible on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
All this was possible because of the great support and work from researchers and staff at our partner institutions.

It was encouraging to observe the dedicated support at NORA’s general assembly 2021. NORA is now going into a new phase. We have greatly expanded and will consolidate many of the initia­tives we have started. We will focus on the fields where collaboration adds value to the community and our partners.

I have greatly appreciated the support from the community, our partners, the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian government. Together we’ve been building an inter­nationally recognised community. We are now three years into the NORA collabo­ration, but the journey has just begun.

A Message from the Board Chair

Tom Ryen
Board Chair of NORA
“It has been important for NORA to include everyone who does AI research, regardless of the size of the individual organisation.”
Three full years have passed since NORA saw the light of day. The importance of a Norwegian research consortium in the field of AI was seen by some universities and research institutions three years ago. More and more universities, colleges and research institutes have joined, and we now have 15 partners. This has made NORA the most important research network in AI in Norway. NORA has had a role as advisor and con­versation partner for Norwegian authorities. In addition, NORA connects Norwegian AI researchers to Europe through the CLAIRE collaboration. For the individual partners, NORA has been of great importance for research in the AI field locally. However, the most valuable benefit has been the collaboration between the partners, where professionals have made individual contacts across regions and organizations.
NORA has made it possible to understand every partner’s individual strength in their AI research. Some are strong in fundamental research, algorithms and hardware adaptations. Ot­hers have their strength in applied AI. Some are strong on ethics and research on society in a world with an increasing use of AI. The potential of AI research is huge, and it is changing very fast. Globally, the research focus on AI is enormous. It is important that Norway and other Nordic countries contrib­ute, and a national consortium strengthens this contribution, as already demonstrated.
NORA consists of both large and small partners. It has been important for NORA to include everyone who does AI re­search, regardless of the size of the indi­vidual organisation. NORA is owned and managed by universities, colleges, and research institutes. It has been important for NORA to stimulate the breadth of AI research, from fundamental research to applied research, and further to innova­tion and start­-ups.

During the three last years, NORA has become a consortium that includes an academic network, conference series, webinars, podcasts, a startup network, industrial network, and a research school, which recently received funding from the Norwegian Research Council. NORA’s staff provides high­-level service for all partners. Through NORA, the individual researcher at the partner institutions have access to resources that would not exist otherwise or would be harder to obtain.

NORA is Norway’s leading research network in AI. We are now entering a new era with new challenges and tasks. Stimulating AI research in light of sustainable develop­ment will be crucial for the future, and I am sure NORA will do an outstanding job.
Key Figures
More than 100 events organised
1700 newsletter subscribers
More than 30 of the most interesting AI startups in Norway
Workshops with attendees from 40+ countries
NORA is Norway's leading research network in AI
NORA has a total of 15 partners