Digitalisation of the Public Sector – Research and Innovation Projects


The Research and Innovation Programme on Digitalisation of the Public Sector, hereafter the Digitalisation Programme, is a collaborative effort between the Research Council of Norway; Academy of Finland; Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte); Innovation Fund Denmark; Estonian Research Council; Latvian Ministry for Education and Science; Economic and Social Research Council (part of UK Research and Innovation) and NordForsk.

The Digitalisation Programme is now issuing a call for proposals for research and innovation projects.

Nordic Added Value

The Nordic region is high-performing and digitally mature with regards to the public sector. However, it is a strong political imperative in the Nordic countries, as well as in Estonia, Latvia and the United Kingdom, to further improve the efficiency, effectiveness and governance of public services design, infrastructure and delivery by means of additional digitalisation. This includes aspects such as public infrastructure and foundational services, service design, service development and delivery, service automation and self-enablement, etc.

All the countries involved in this call have developed digital strategies that contain high ambitions for modernising, simplifying and improving the public sector.

These strategies emphasise knowledge development, user centricity, digital skills, digital security, AI application and e-administration, for the further development and digitalisation of the public sector. Under this programme, the Nordic, Latvian, Estonian and UK collaboration will create outcomes and impacts of greater value for the countries involved than could be achieved through national activities alone.

Aim of the Call and Thematic Framework

The Digitalisation Programme focuses on three interrelated areas that enable and shape the digital transformation of the public sector: (1) the enabling factors of digitalisation; (2) digital innovation; and (3) society and the end-user perspective. The overarching aim of the call is to combine and integrate knowledge-based, digital innovation efforts related to the public sector with research on the related drivers, effects and impact on society and end-users.

Specifically, the programme aims to:
  • strengthen research and knowledge related to the long-term effects and impacts of digital transformation on the public sector and society as a whole;
  • Engage with the processes and outcomes of the adoption and adaption of these new technologies, practices and regulation mechanisms;
  • advance interdisciplinary research related to drivers and enablers for successful digital transformation of the public sector;
  • strengthen knowledge-based innovation capability in the Nordic public sector and beyond, and encourage stronger cooperation and collaboration between innovation agents and research communities across the public, civic and private sectors;
  • encourage comparative research and the exchange of best practice and innovative processes/solutions within participating countries and across borders;
  • produce useful knowledge and support to potentially inform policy development and the development of the public sector throughout the Nordic region, in the UK, Estonia, and Latvia and beyond.
The project proposals should address at least three of the core objectives mentioned below:
  • advance cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in this area, through theoretical, methodological and/or experimental innovation;
  • motivate and support excellence and capacity-building for interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research on public sector digitalisation;
    generate applied research, useful to practitioners and policy makers both within and across participating countries;
  • promote increased knowledge exchange and co-production between researchers, providers and users of public services across public, civic and private sectors;
  • develop and test specific innovations and new digital solutions in the public sector, as well as develop an understanding of the drivers and challenges for uptake and scaling of innovations, and the potential impact of digitalisation on public sector organisations and on public sector employees and citizens;
  • consider the security and privacy implications of digitalisation, including ethical, legal, social and behavioural considerations, e.g. cyber security and data governance.

Project proposals are encouraged to employ an explicitly interdisciplinary perspective and to consider all three interrelated areas that comprise the thematic framework. Examples of issues within these broad areas that projects could investigate include:

1.The enabling factors of digitalisation:

a. The emerging technologies themselves;
b. The emerging organisational practices and networks that support and enable digital transformation of public sector;
c. The emerging regulatory frameworks and governance mechanisms that are conditional for digital transformation of public sector;
d. The Social drivers/ inhibitors / contexts that affect uptake, scaling and spread of digital transformation of public sector.

2. The digital innovations themselves, such as:

a. Service/process automation, self-enablement;
b. Data-/insight-driven services (personalisation, differentiation);
c. MyData and personal approval-based services;
d. Open data-based innovation.

3. The broader societal and end-user perspectives and impacts, such as:

a. skill requirements, inclusion and user adoption;
b. labour markets and need for training and life-long-learning;
c. security, privacy and risk;
d. longer-term effects and impact of digital transformation of the public sector, in particular on UN SDGs (e.g. SDG 16);
e. ethical, social, behavioural and legal considerations and consequences.

Project proposals submitted under this call are encouraged to combine the three areas in the thematic framework. To strengthen the knowledge base for practice and for research-informed policy, applicants are expected to incorporate early, continuous and active involvement of end-users and stakeholders.

Projects must therefore have a detailed strategy for knowledge exchange and communication. Where appropriate, the strategy should describe the processes by which research-based knowledge can feed into practice and policy in collaboration with stakeholders. The creation of new models of collaboration between research and practice is encouraged.

Project duration: maximum three years

Total funding available: EUR 7.4 million. The maximum amount of funding available per project is EUR 1 million. Up to 10 projects may be funded

Read more here.