Neuroscience is one of a few scientific disciplines where Norway is at the leading edge. The discipline is currently evolving faster than almost any other discipline. This development is reflected in the steady invention of new technology for the investigation of the brain. A condition for maintaining Norway's leading role in neuroscience is therefore that scientists are given access to cutting-edge neurotechnology as it evolves. NORBRAIN is a national research infrastructure program created to serve this purpose. The program has been operative since 2011 (NORBRAIN1 and NORBRAIN2). NORBRAIN3 represents a new third stage of the infrastructure program, started in 2020, with partners from NTNU (coordinating institution), University of Oslo, and University of Bergen. NORBRAIN3 will enable the purchase and development of technology for recording of neural activity from large distributed brain networks, using state-of-the-art microscopy and electrophysiology methods. Access to these technologies will attract investigators across the entire spectrum of neuroscience, at universities as well as hospitals and companies with a potential for translating fundamental research to treatment and industrial application.
Neuroscience is one of a few scientific disciplines where Norway is at the leading edge. However, this leading position can only be maintained as long as Norwegian scientists can access state-of-the-art equipment. Recognizing the bottleneck position of technology in neuroscience, we applied in 2011 for funding to set up facilities for neuroscience accessible to any neuroscience laboratory in the country. Based on this proposal, an RCN-funded infrastructure for level-spanning neuroscience technology - NORBRAIN - was established at NTNU and Univ. of Oslo (www.norbrain.no). Funding was provided in two stages. While Norwegian neuroscience was significantly boosted by this initiative, neurotechnology develops at a rate comparable to computer and cell phone technology. Now, 7 years after startup of the first facilities, entirely novel technologies have emerged. This includes the emergence of technologies for large-scale neural population studies as well as fine-scale structural and molecular analysis of neurons and their environment. Thus, to keep Norwegian neuroscience at the international forefront, NORBRAIN needs a Stage 3, where these new technologies are included and made nationally available. Nationwide access to these technologies would attract not only investigators in basic disciplines at the universities but also biopharma and diagnostics companies with a potential for translating research to treatment and industrial application.
A proposal for NORBRAIN3, with UiB as a third partner, was submitted for the first time in October 2016. The project was put on the RCN’s Road Map for Infrastructures but did not pass the threshold for immediate funding. The proposal received the highest possible score on scientific content and benefit to the research community but scored lower on plans for operation and management. We are now resubmitting a scientifically updated substantially revised version with an entirely new operation and management model.