– We perform extensive R&D in the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA), and we already have close cooperation with the universities in Stavanger, NTNU in Trondheim and Chalmers Technical University in Gothenburg, says Kjersti Kvalheim Dunham, Program manager in the NPRA.
Representatives from these universities are now collaborating with the NPRA to apply for funding from the EU to expand research cooperation to include researchers from several universities and to strengthen cooperation with industry.
The EU has funds for strong research communities, the Marie Curie "Research Fellowship Program" is the one we are aiming for, but the needle eye is tight and it is demanding to actually be allocated funds.
Planning to establish two research programmes
– We are working on two applications now, one theme is Sustainability, the other theme is Constructions. We already have about 50 researchers working on issues related to the E39-project, but if we receive funding from the EU, we can offer more researchers opportunities for research stays, thus exchanging knowledge across countries and universities, and they will have more opportunities to attend international conferences and disseminate their research findings, explains Dunham.
She further explains that the purpose of the Marie Curie programs is to offer researchers opportunities that are usually not budgeted. These include research stays at other universities and close contact with industrial partners. The Marie Curie program is often referred to as "training network", where the researchers through close monitoring and cooperation with industry will be trained to translate their research findings into practice.
The Coastal Highway Route E39 is creating solutions that are relevant for Europe
– It is important for us to show that we are working on research that will be useful outside of Norway and the Nordic countries. We are working on developing roads for the future, and our project can in many ways be regarded as a research laboratory for how the roads of the future will be planned and built. Our researchers are working on solutions that will be sustainable for the future, including both electrification of freight transport, building energy efficient roads, and building bridges and tunnels that will withstand extreme environmental loads.
– A main goal of the project to develop the living- and working regions along the western part of Norway, but also to tie Norway closer together with the rest of Europe. Socio-economic analyses show that an improved and ferry-free road will benefit all of Norway, and that after the regions Hordaland and Rogaland, Akershus and Oslo will experience the greatest benefit of the improved E39.
Dunham says that the project already attracts great attention and that many international guests attend meetings and conferences organized by the NPRA.
– What is particularly important for us to convey in our applications is that we already have close cooperation between researchers who develop new knowledge and that the NPRA has the opportunity to realize the research in "real life"by building roads, bridges and tunnels. This is true technology transfer, concludes Dunham.