Currently, the Norwegian higher education system offers AI­related research topics at most universities and university colleges. However, the courses are fragmented and not easily available to a larger number of students or early­ stage researchers, and some subtopics of AI are not covered at all in Norway’s higher educational system. Not every Norwegian university can afford to cover all the topics in the field of AI. This is supported by NORA ́s own analysis, which shows that there are gaps between courses available and the ambitions in this field. Hence, enabling the access to courses from one university to another and making certain courses available at the national level is a key goal for NORA.

In the coming years, Norway needs to increase the number of experts within AI. In order to meet the demanding digital transformation that Norway is facing, the relevant stakeholders must take steps to encourage young people to study AI. The use of AI is interdisciplinary, and edu­cation should therefore be made available in all disciplines so that AI is presented as a useful tool in areas other than ICT.

By establishing a research school, ac­cess to specialised education in AI and AI­ related topics will become more available, and more topics within AI will be covered. A research school in AI will increase the level of AI education.
A national research school will be an important and useful tool for sharing the national resources that exist within AI in terms of research and education. By interlinking parts of the PhD programmes, Norwegian universities will be able to provide a significantly better education than they can individually, while at the same time contributing to the devel­opment of a nationwide educational eco­system among Norway’s future AI experts.

NORA has already played an active role in supporting the joint course on AI in Ethics at the University of Bergen and University of Oslo. Such initiatives have already enabled NORA to deal with the typical challenges that we may face in the future. In 2022, we’re also planning intensive courses on topics like AI in Medicine/Life Sciences as part of the research school initiative, so that the students at NORA partner institutes can benefit.

NORA has an education committee which acts as an advisory body for sourcing and validating input on designing new courses and other interventions linked with AI education.

67% women in the board
2 million NOK in funding per year from RCN
More than 1 million NOK annualy from NORAs partners

Research School
NORA started the work of establishing a research school for AI as early as 2020. A PhD symposium was held in February 2020 and NORA’s Education Council also discussed and planned the establishment of a research school. In 2021, the Research Council of Norway announced a call for “Research School for Quality and Relevance“. NORA applied and the application was successful. As one of twelve successful applicants, NORA receives funding for the research school from 2022. The research school will cover basic and applied AI, machine learning and robotics, and it will be of relevance to the industry and public sector.

The primary objective of the research school is to raise the quality of the PhD education in AI to a leading European level, with a high degree of relevance for the labour market.

The secondary objectives are:

1. Enhancing and filling gaps in the PhD education by commissioning new PhD courses and upgrading existing courses for wider participation.

2. Creating added value for the Norwegian AI community by connecting the research school to the NORA research and innovation ecosystems.

3. Bringing the stakeholders (industry, pub­lic sector, and others) together through industry days, workshops, internships, startup activities and innovation projects.

4. Empowering students by giving them responsibilities to organise technical tuto­rials and include them in the programme agenda of top­-quality scientific events.

5. Facilitating student access to national high­-performance computing infrastructure.

6. Enhancing international collaboration and increase the attractiveness of Norway as a destination for AI talent.
The organisation of the research school will include a research school board and several councils. NORA has chosen a radi­cal approach towards gender equality in the research school. The research school board and all advisory councils are led by women. The board chair will be Cathrine Phil Lyngstad, director of Data and AI at NAV. Marija Slavkovic (UiB) will lead NORA’s Education Council, Mari Serine Kannelønning (OsloMet) will lead the PhD Student Council and Signe Riemer­ Sørensen (SINTEF) will lead the Innovation Council. Of the nine persons on the board, six are women (67%).
The research school ́s project manager is Arnoldo Frigessi (UiO), and NORA ́s CEO Klas Pettersen is the project administrator supported by the NORA secretariat. The funding is NOK 2 million per year, starting in 2022 for a maximum eight­year period. NORA partners will further contribute more than NOK 1 million annually.

The research school board will consist of NORA partners, Norwegian industry and the public sector. The board chair will be Cathrine Pihl Lyngstad, who heads Data Science and AI at NAV. Other board mem­bers are Robert Jensen (UiT), also head of SFI Visual Intelligence; Marija Slavkovik (UiB), a driving force of AI education at UiB, who was also the driving force behind the NORA pilot PhD­level ethics course which is now conducted in collaboration between UiB and UiO; Liv Dingsør, CEO of Digital­ Norway, one of the key industry­focused AI bodies in Norway, contributes with her strong industry insights and perspectives;

Kjersti Engan (UiS) and Nils­-Olav Skeie (USN) bring strong experience from AI research and education; Hans Ekkehard Plesser (NMBU) has been the past board chair of the RCN­-supported Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience and hence has solid experience in running and managing a research school; Signe Riemer­-Sørensen (SINTEF) will enable important industry links with her experience and connections to a large number of industry­-facing projects within AI;
and Mari Serine Kannelønning (OsloMet), who will be a PhD student representative on the board. Riemer­-Sørensen, Slavkovik and Kannelønning will lead the Educa­tion, Innovation and PhD Student Council, respectively.

The Education Council expands on an existing framework within NORA. The council gives advice on education and has been pivotal in the RCN application for NORA to become an RCN­-supported research school. The education commit­ tee will act as the scientific resource pool for advising the topics of new PhD courses to be initiated, provide techni­cal input for the scientific programmes
and evaluate student applications that may be solicited for the activities of the research school described above, such as a student exchange with our international collaborators.

The Innovation Council will be a new council at NORA. It will serve as a council for industry and public administrations. NORA’s research institutes SINTEF, NORCE, Simula and Vestlandsforskning together with the SFIs, SFI Visual Intelligence, SFI Big Insight, and SFI Media Futures will be essential in bridging the NORA partners with industry. Several industry clusters will be represented on the council, among them Norway’s three industry clusters for AI. Selected companies and public organisations will also have representatives.

The PhD Student Council is a coun­cil newly formed by NORA, comprising 24 PhD students spread across 9 NORA partners. Read more about the council in Chapter 6.2. The International Advisory Council will connect NORA to prominent international European AI networks and provide valuable input and insight based on their experience with their respect­ive research schools and doctoral programmes. Members of the International Advisory Council will include representatives from WASP (Sweden), HIDA (Ger­many), the Alan Turing Institute (UK), FCAI (Finland), AI Pioneer Centre (Denmark) and CLAIRE (Europe).

PhD Student Committee
NORA considers young researchers at NORA’s partners an important target group for our activities. Until recently NORA did not have a formal structure to collect the input of young researchers in shaping NORA’s activities. Hence, NORA reached out to the PhD Students who previously participated in NORA Research School programme in 2020 and invited them to join a student advisory committee.
In the first call for nomination, NORA received replies from 24 PhD students representing a number of NORA partners. Mari Kannelønning from Oslomet was appointed as the leader of the student committee for 2021-2022 period. She actively participated in the panel discus­sion at Nordic AI Meet conference in 2021, sharing input on behalf of the student committee for future work.
Research School Structure

Overview of the structure of NORA Research School