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 sixth-largest donor to global health R&D in 2019

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Norway contributed US$84 million in total to R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in 2019, making it the sixth-largest public donor to R&D in these areas. The vast majority (98% or US$82 million) of this funding was spent on R&D for EIDs only. 1.6% (US$1 million) was spent on R&D exclusively for neglected diseases, and 0.2% (US$142 thousand) on R&D only relevant to SRH. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area.

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Norway is the second-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2019

In 2019, Norway spent US$82 million on R&D for emerging infectious diseases, making it the second-largest donor to this area 2019.

Norway’s funding for EIDs increased significantly in 2019 compared to 2018 (+US$65 million). 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.

Most of Norway’s EID R&D funding in 2019 was disbursed as core funding to multi-disease R&D organizations, in particular to CEPI and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The Norwegian government has been a strong supporter of CEPI and hosts the headquarters in Oslo. In its 2017 White Paper, ‘Common future, common responsibilities‘, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) named CEPI the government’s most important new initiative in global health. Norway supported CEPI’s launch at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2017, with a commitment of NOK1.0 billion (around US$120 million) until 2021.

Norway has stepped up R&D funding to EID through its international COVID-19 response, committing US$219 million between February and April 2020 

According to Policy Cures Research’s COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and April 2020 (latest data available), Norway announced funding commitments totaling US$219 million for COVID-19 R&D. US$214 million of this will go towards vaccines and the remaining US$5 million has been committed for unspecified purposes.

The outbreak of COVID-19 further strengthened Norway’s commitment to CEPI. In addition to its regular funding, Norway pledged NOK2.2 billion (US$250 million) to CEPI at the Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Event in May 2020, specially earmarked for COVID-19 R&D. 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’.

Norway’s funding for PRNDs has been decreasing since 2016

In 2019, Norway invested US$1.5 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$1.4 million) and areas of overlap with SRH (US$116 thousand). This makes Norway the 23rd-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2019. In 2019, funding levels saw a significant decrease of 48% compared to 2018.

Most of Norway’s funding for PRNDs in 2019 was disbursed as core funding to multi-disease R&D organizations (62%). The remaining funding was used in the field of vaccines (13%) and diagnostics (13%), followed by biologics (12%). R&D initiatives related to tuberculosis (13% of PRND funding in 2019), malaria (10%), and HIV/AIDs (8%) 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 2019, Norway spent US$257 thousand on R&D for SRH, including US$116 thousand on HIV/AIDS (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above). This makes Norway the 21th-largest donor to this sector in 2019. Compared to 2018, Norway’s funding for SRH R&D increased by US$11 thousand, showing an upward trend.

In addition to HIV/AIDS (45% of SRH R&D funding), Norway made disbursements for R&D for  contraception (55%). 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$40 million) in financing for 2017 to 2020; the government has increased its allocations by NOK105 million (US$12 million) for the period 2018 to 2020.

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) for COVID-19 treatment trials and COVID-19 research relevant to low-income countries.

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 2019

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

The MFA, including Norad, provided the majority of global health R&D funding in 2019 (US$83 million or 99%). The RCN distributed only 1% (US$750 thousand) of global health R&D funding in 2019; however, the Norwegian government will channel NOK500 million (US$57 million) to global health research through the RCN over the next ten years. 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 the 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.