NIFU’s roots stretch back to the mid-1950s. It was initially established as a division within the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities. Over many years’ of activity in this field the institute gained significant expertise investigating questions relating to research and higher education at the national and international levels, conducting surveys and research into most branches of the field of education and research. During these years the institute established itself as a key source of statistics and it continues to be entrusted with the national responsibility for collecting R&D statistics. In 1961 NIFU officially became a Research Division of the Norwegian Research Council for the Sciences and Humanities. The division was reorganised several times, in 1969 as the Institute for Studies in Research and Education and then becoming   the NIFU foundation in 1996. Throughout these transformations, the Institute has developed as a key actor delivering statistics and studies in the areas of research and higher education.

On 1 May 2004, NIFU merged with the STEP-group (Studies in Technology, innovation, and Economic Policy)  to make the most of the synergies between these organisations and their complementary areas of expertise. The merged group was named NIFU STEP. STEP was first established in 1991, when the (former) Norwegian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research formed the group within the Norwegian Computing Centre. STEP went on to become an independent foundation in 1994 and established itself in national and international circles as a pioneer in the area of systemic and evolutionary innovation research., The institute took part in and coordinated several projects under the EU Framework Programs, as well as for the OECD and the Nordic Innovation Centre. The heritage of STEP underpins the institutes’ extensive experience in Norwegian and European innovation policy history and development, innovation statistics and indicators and regional cluster studies. Today, NIFU continues to play a major role in a large number of studies of national innovation systems and in evaluations of national and international innovation policy organisations and measures.

In the autumn of 2010 the institute changed its name to NIFU, the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education. The new name marks the completion of the integration process between the two former institutes, and reflects our determination to strengthen our already comprehensive portfolio of comparative research in the Nordic region. The Nordic region stands out for its innovation and successful knowledge development. Our fundamental social and cultural similarities (defining the Nordic model) alongside different approaches to the areas of education , research and innovation, offer opportunities for comparative studies that are particularly interesting to Nordic policy makers as well as to Europe and the wider international community.