Norway - Global health R&D

This section focuses on donor countries’ support to global health research and development (R&D) that addresses the global health challenges disproportionately affecting the world’s most disadvantaged people. Following the methodological approach used by Policy Cures Research (read G-FINDER’s scope document), it focuses on donor funding and policy in three main areas: 1) emerging infectious diseases (EIDs); 2) poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs); and 3) sexual and reproductive health (SRH). As part of the EID R&D funding, this section also takes a closer look at donor contributions for COVID-19 R&D within the framework of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). This section excludes domestic funding for health R&D that does not benefit low- and middle-income countries. Not all funding mentioned qualifies as ODA.)

Norway was the fifth-largest donor to global health R&D in 2020 

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Norway contributed US$251 million in total to R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in 2020, making it the fifth-largest public donor to R&D in these areas. The vast majority (99%, or US$248 million) of this funding was spent on R&D for EIDs only. 0.5% (US$1.2 million) was spent on R&D exclusively for neglected diseases, and 0.03% (US$70,000) on R&D only relevant to SRH. In addition, 0.4% of total R&D spending in health (US$894,000) was tackling both neglected diseases and SRH.  

 

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Norway has increased spending in R&D for EIDs in 2020 

In 2020, Norway spent US$248 million on R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), making it the fourth-largest donor to this area 2020.  

Norway’s funding for EIDs nearly tripled between 2019 and 2020 (up US$165 million). The spike in funding is related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 which resulted in a surging demand for R&D connected to the disease. 91% of EID funding was dedicated to R&D related to COVID-19. 90%, or US$225 million, of R&D funding to EIDs was dedicated to vaccination development.  

The outbreak of COVID-19 further strengthened Norway’s commitment to CEPI as the country’s EID R&D funding in 2020 was disbursed almost entirely to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI; US$247 million). The Norwegian government has traditionally been a strong supporter of CEPI and hosts the headquarters in Oslo. CEPI (along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) is convening the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). ACT-A, the world’s most comprehensive end-to-end solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a framework for collaboration through which donor countries have committed funds toward R&D for COVID-19; however not all ACT-A funding is for R&D since it also has strong health system strengthening and vaccine distribution components. For additional information on the broader ACT-A global health response to COVID-19, please see Sector: ‘Global Health’.  

It is worth noting that it is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization of the sector; however, consistent funding for EID R&D (for example, funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; CEPI) is essential to ensuring preparedness in advance of EID outbreaks and ensuring a rapid response—in terms of both research and containment—to emerging disease threats.  

Norway’s funding for PRNDs has been increased in 2020 

In 2020, Norway invested US$2.1 million in R&D for poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), including R&D funding exclusively for PRNDs (US$1.2 million) and areas of overlap with sexual and reproductive health (SRH; US$900,000). This ranks Norway relatively low, at 19th place, among public supporters of PRND R&D in 2020. Still, funding levels saw an increase of 50% in 2020 compared to 2019. 

Most of Norway’s funding for PRNDs in 2020 was used in the field of biologics (44%). A similarly large share was disbursed as core funding to multi-disease R&D organizations (44%). The remaining funding was used in the field of vaccines (8%) and diagnostics (4%). R&D initiatives related to HIV/AIDS (42% of PRND funding in 2020), diarrheal diseases (5%), malaria (4%), and tuberculosis (4%) received the largest share of Norway’s funding to this disease area. 

Norway’s funding for SRH R&D focuses on contraception and HIV/AIDS 

In 2020, Norway spent US$964,000 on R&D for SRH, including US$894,000 on HIV/AIDS (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above). This makes Norway the 16th-largest donor to this sector in 2020. Compared to 2019, Norway’s funding for SRH R&D increased by US$721,000, largely due to the rise in funding for R&D on HIV/AIDS.  

In addition to HIV/AIDS (93% of SRH R&D funding), Norway made disbursements for R&D for contraception (7%). All SRH R&D funding went toward devices and combination.  

Vaccines are key to Norway’s global health research strategy 

Norway partly funds global health R&D through the national ‘Program for Global Health and Vaccination Research’ (GLOBVAC), which focuses on vaccination research and research aimed at improving health equity in low- and middle-income countries. GLOBVAC is jointly managed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Research Council of Norway (RCN). GLOBVAC initially planned to deliver NOK354 million (US$38 million) in financing from 2017 to 2020; the government has increased its allocations by NOK105 million (US$11 million) for the period 2018 to 2020. Instead of continuing this program after 2020, it was decided to channel funding directly through the RCN for the next ten years.  

In addition to its increased pledges to CEPI, the COVID-19 crisis prompted RCN to announce NOK100 million (US$11 million) in funding for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 treatment trials and COVID-19 research relevant to low-income countries. Norway is contributing both money and expertise to this effort. The international study is being coordinated by the Research Council’s Chief Executive Officer, John-Arne Røttingen. 

Further, the Research Council of Norway prioritized the area of ‘implementation research’ in its Portfolio for Global Development and International Relations published in 2021. Such implementation research is supposed to include research on interventions with proven efficacy and policies with substantial potential to reduce disease burden and promote health equity. “Real-world” impacts of interventions, such as acceptability, feasibility, cost, and sustainability, as well as health outcomes such as survival and physical growth will be encompassed in the implementation research.  

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the largest funder of global health R&D in 2020 

Two public institutions provide funding for global health R&D, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA, includes Norad) and the RCN.  

The MFA, including Norad, provided the majority of global health R&D funding in 2020 (US$248 million, or 99%). The RCN distributed only 1% (US$2 million) toward global health R&D funding in 2020; however, the Norwegian government will channel NOK500 million (US$53 million) to global health research through the RCN over the next ten years (2021-2031). This newly announced funding particularly focuses on ensuring universal health care and strengthening systems for primary health services in low- and middle-income countries. The RCN serves as the advisory body for government authorities on research policy issues. It awards research grants and is overseen by the Ministry of Research. The RCN follows the research policy guidelines of the government and parliament and advises the government. Contributions to CEPI come from the Ministry of Health.