NORA has launched several initiatives to support innovation­driven research at our partner institutions. Through NORA.startup, we have established a network and meeting venue for the AI startup community and researchers. Through NORA.startup, NORA has created an arena for interaction and collaboration between startups and academia and we have tak­ en an active part in supporting startup companies in the field of AI.

NORA has also recently established an industry network that is open to companies of all sizes, the public sector and non­profit organisations who are interested in AI and the opportunities this represents for value creation.
The industry network works to­ward creating synergies between research and industry, by introducing and connect­ing research projects, new methods, and theory to industrial actors.

Both NORA.startup and the NORA in­dustry network have created many arenas for industrial collaboration and research.

NORA.startup was created based on an initiative introduced by the Simula Garage with the aim to build a national network for research­-based innovation. Since its inception in September 2020, NORA.startup has been an active supporter of startups who wish to connect with the research community across Norway and has since become known as NORA’s in­ novation platform.

The NORA.startup community has grown quickly. Currently, NORA.startup consists of more than 30 companies and more than 30 researchers. The network is continuously growing.

In 2021, NORA.startup became recognised by Innovation Norway as an important entrepreneurial ecosystem for innovation and AI. The recognition was an important milestone for NORA.startup, which acknow­ledged the work NORA has done for entre­preneurs who are driving the creation of startups in the field of AI. NORA.startup is an innovation arena which facilitates networking and collaboration be­tween existing actors in the Norwegian ecosystem, including universities, university colleges, research institutions, incubators, accelerators and startups. The network facilitates opportuni­ties for collaboration in AI, machine learning and robotics, and supports startups or entrepreneurial researchers through a network of competence within the abovementioned fields.

NORA.startup is governed by a steering group consisting of representatives selected by the NORA Board. The members of the steering group have a broad professional span such as academic researchers, founders, representatives of incubators and accelerators.

NORA.startup has hosted numerous activities for its members, including themed webinars and workshops, in-person meet­-and­-greets and funding days. NORA.startup has hosted more than 25 webinars addressing important questions such as sustainability, trustworthiness and diversity in AI while exploring various use cases of applied AI.

NORA.startup has also hosted many large both in­person and virtual events for mem­bers, amongst them events on public funding opportunities with Innovation Norway and the Research Council of Norway. Most importantly, NORA.startup has provided support and ad­ vice on writing applications, introductions to investors, introductions to academic projects and researchers through our webinars.

NORA.startup has become an arena for interaction and collaboration between NORA partners and startups, where NORA has taken an active part in supporting startup companies in the field of AI.

NORA.startup | Key figures
NORA.startup consists of more than 30 companies
NORA.startup consists of more than 30 researchers
NORA.startup has hosted more than 25 webinars

Steering group NORA.startup
Freyja Jørgensen
Innovation Manager, Simula Garage and head of the NORA.startup steering group
Lars Ailo Bongo
Lars Ailo Bongo, Professor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Anita Schjøll Brede
CEO and Co­founder of IRIS.ai
Morten Goodwin
Professor at the University of Agder
Lars Selsås
CEO and Founder of Boost.ai
Sondre Pedersen
Co­Founder Findable
Annette F. Stephansen
Research Director Digital Systems at NORCE
Jørgen Veiby
Business Development Manager, Startuplab
Birte Hansen
Innovation and Industry Coordinator, NORA
Klas H. Pettersen

“NORA.startup grew out of an uncovered need for a knowledge­ based and highly competent AI network, connecting ambitious entrepreneurs with researchers and students, genuinely pushing this field forward. The goal has always been to build this network gradually, tailoring it towards our members, while facilitating know­ledge­ and experience exchange. As the head of the NORA.startup steering group, I’m proud to see how this network has grown and proved useful for so many, and I’d like to extend a big thank you to the researchers, incubator­-representatives and entrepreneurs for their support in making this possible”.

Freyja Jørgensen, Innovation Manager the Simula Garage
NORA.startup members

Industry Network
The NORA Industry Network is a network for and of research­-based business projects. The recent launch of the NORA Industry Network in January 2022 was a central accomplishment for NORA.

The members of the NORA Industry Network will benefit from the competence and experience from academic partners in the consortium. The NORA Industry Network aims to facilitate and strength­en collaboration between industry, re­searchers, students, research institutions and public actors. Industry to academic collaboration will be part of NORA partner institutions that will build strong platforms for knowledge and technology exchange, education, and training, provide access to talent and student collaboration, and most importantly, provide access to the top leading AI scientists, research labs and research institutes in Norway. The mission is to substantially increase AI­ based research, innovation, and uptake in Norway through open and shared knowledge and technology exchanges.

Launching the industry network is an
important step in securing closer collaboration between the NORA partners and external actors, such as commercial enterprises and public actors. The NORA Industry Network is open to both private and public actors.

Including commercial enterprises and public actors in important events, such as conferences and seminars can help deve­lop a shared understanding of the impact of AI on the future of industry.
The Indu­stry Network will focus on the significance of academic to industry collaboration as much of the research being conducted is in the field of applied AI. NORA will contribute as an important facilitator in connecting industry to relevant research projects and groups at partner universities.

NORA has already established cen­tral platforms for knowledge exchange, such as the Nordic AI Meet, the NORA Annual Conference and Industry Days. During the Nordic AI Meet Conference, we developed a special segment where industry is invited in to showcase how they’re working with AI in their respective fields. In 2021, we invited Telenor, Cognite,

Soundsensing and Kongsberg Digital to introduce how AI, machine learning and robotics has been built into their solutions and products. By participating in the Nordic AI Meet and the NORA Annual Conference, industry representatives are exposed to pioneering research currently being conducted by researchers in the field of AI. Industry partners are also invited to introduce challenges and explore solutions with academic partners.

In 2021, NORA hosted the first Indu­stry Day as a side event to the Northern Lights Deep Learning Conference. The conference is organised by SFI Visual Intelligence and is hosted by the UiT The Arctic University of Norway. The event featured four keynote speeches from Kongsberg Satellite Services, Graphcore, SINTEF Digital and Equinor.
The event ended with a panel discussion addressing important subjects such as the value of industry to academic collaboration and how academic researchers can connect with industry to advance academic co­ operation.

The collaboration between the In­dustry Network and the NORA Research School will be important. One of the aims of the research school is to collaborate with industry, public sector and startup companies. Through the research school, industry will have the opportunity to pro­vide input on the development of courses in AI for the future, by contributing their knowledge of current educational gaps that should be addressed to meet future demands.

Through the research school, NORA will also encourage and increase the number of industrial PhDs in the field. The research school aims to serve 100 graduate students in 2022, steadily in­ creasing to reach 200 graduate students by the end of the project period, with the goal of 25% industrial or public sector PhDs by 2029.
NORA Annual Conference Startup Segment
The NORA Annual Conference is open to all NORA partners, non­-NORA partners, industry and public actors, and of course, startups. During the NORA.startup segment of the conference, all members were invited to have a booth and to present their startup including the idea that inspired the startup, the specific service/product they offer, the team behind the startup and how research­based in­ novation has played a part in building the startup, and the benefits of research­-based collaboration. Soundsensing, BergenRobotics, Neddy, Disputas and Maigon all pitched the technical aspects of their services and solutions, giving researchers insight and inspiration as to how AI can be applied to solve real life problems.

Following the pitches, NORA hosted a panel de­bate on the topic: How can we improve collaboration between academia and the thriving startup commu­nity in Norway? Odd Gurvin, Project Leader of the Norwegian Cognitive Center moderated the debate between invited speakers Erlend Waaler, Head of StartupLab Bergen, Jakob Voigt, Industrial PhD at Neddy, Freyja Jørgensen, Innovation Manager at the Simula Garage and the Leader of NORA.startup steering group and Lars Ailo Bongo, Professor at UiT, co­founder of Medsensio and innovation coordinator at SFI Visual Intelligence.
“Academia and entrepreneurship seem like two oppo­sites. Academia with time­-consuming and thorough processes – and Startups with fast­paced and agile strategies and often a shortage of money.

Norwegian universities are behind Nordic univer­sities when it comes to commercialising the results of research. At the same time Norwegian universities conduct research for about NOK 23 billion annually, it is obvious that the potential for commercialisation and innovation through new establishments is larger than what they deliver today.

So, there are a lot of questions that we should ask: Where is the Return on Investment on the billions put into research, how can we improve the com­mercialisation of research through startups, but the most important topic today is collaboration between universities and startups”.

– Odd Gurvin, Project Leader, Norwegian Cognitive Center

NORA as a European Digital Innovation Hub
The Digital Europe Programme (Digital) aims to deploy a network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) offering public and private organisations access to technology testing and support in their digital transformation. The initial network of EDIHs will be established from a list of hubs designated by the member states. Only these designated candidates are eligible to submit a proposal.

Through an application to Innovation Norway, NORA is qualified to apply to become an EDIH under Digital. EDIHs will function as a one­stop shop that helps companies respond dynamically to the digital challenges and become more com­petitive by providing access to technical expertise and experimentation as well as the possibility to ‘test before invest’.
After the qualification round, NORA col­laborated with other qualified candidates from Norway and established a larger Norwegian EDIH consortium. The other partners are from qualified applications led by NTNU, Smart Innovation Norway and ÅKP AS. Digital Norway will have the coordinating role of this EDIH.

NORA also has a supporting role in the EDIH Ocean application, coordinated by NORCE.

Infrastructure Application
In December 2021, the Research Council of Norway announced that the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Cloud (NAIC) will receive funding. The infrastructure will be the most powerful AI infrastructure in Norway. It will meet the AI needs of academia, SMEs, larger industry, startups, and public administration. Gard Thomas­ sen (UiO) is the project lead.

The entire Norwegian AI community will benefit from the infrastructure. Uninett Sigma2 AS and NTNU (NAIL) are partners of the project in addition to UiO and NORA partners. The goal is not only to build a physical AI infrastructure. The project will invest in computing, and an even larger part of the budget will go towards building competence and education around the infrastructure. We will provide user­specific assistance and develop a coherent infra­ structure consolidating existing resources and new resources, paving a way to scale to future needs.

It should be mentioned in particular that NAIC will collaborate with the NORA Research School. Through joint workshops and training, NAIC and NORA will help the uptake of the NAIC infrastructure for Ph.D. students in relevant domains by introducing NAIC resources and ser­ vices to university courses.

The NORA secretariat will offer its services as a hub for communication, linking students and researchers to the NAIC infrastructure, and will give advice on projects related to AI. At the NORA Research School, speci­fic workshops will be organised where Ph.D. students will bring their research projects and will be offered on­boarding to NAIC. This will ensure a culture of using NAIC across Norwegian universities and research institutes.
NAIC will also be a strong driving force for collaboration between startup compa­nies, research communities and the busi­ness sector, with emphasis on professional competence, expertise, development, and application of the abovementioned tech­nologies. NORA.startup will be NAIC’s tool to reach out to the startup companies. The NORA secretariat will lead dissemination, outreach, and community liaison, and will participate in procurement. We will demonstrate the use of the NAIC ser­vices in scientific and industry use cases. We will work with pre­selected use cases from the start and identify additional use cases through open calls.

AI infrastructure already hosted by the partners with a sufficient amount of ac­companying storage will be publicised through a NAIC service catalogue and access procedures will be simplified. We will customise the factory model to accommodate needs of communities using ex­isting e-infrastructures.

NAIC is a giant leap for Norway in be­ coming an AI country and will give Norway a competitive edge in the very competitive field of AI technology.

Research school goals:
100 graduate
students in 2022
200 graduate students by the end of the project period
25% industrial or public sector PhDs by 2029

Innovation Norway innovation Ecosystem for AI
The main goal of NORA.startup is to create a highly competent innovation ecosys­tem in AI, machine learning and robotics. NORA.startup was therefore a perfect match for Innovation Norway’s call for creating innovation ecosystems.

From spring 2021, NORA has been fund­ed as Innovation Norway’s ecosystem for AI. The mission of the ecosystem supported by Innovation Norway aligns well with the mission of NORA.startup. The ecosystem will have a strong focus on dissemination and exchange of knowledge and experi­ences, both from a business and academic perspective. When the application was submitted, we had the goal of 25 of Nor­way’s most competent startup companies in AI being affiliated with NORA.startup. This goal was already reached at the beginning of 2022. In addition, the ecosystem will organise 2-3 major events where NORA will assist with collaborative projects and investment opportunities with a focus on research and development.

There will also be a focus on learning about each other’s 25% industrial or public sector PhDs by 2029 skills. Both the startup companies and ac­ademics will benefit from the academic programme. NORA has been organising webinars and investment days, and NORA has provided service both for the research community and startup companies to make contacts with potential partners.

As part of building the innovation eco­system, NORA has also built a compe­tence database with a list of researchers and startup companies in Norway in AI, the aidirectory.no.