Kjell Inge Rokke, Norway's 10th richest man with an estimated fortune of 2.0 billion euros ($2.1 billion) according to financial magazine Kapital, will pay an undisclosed sum for the 181-metre (594-foot) vessel to be launched in 2020.
"I want to give back to society the lion's share of what I've earned," the 58-year-old businessman, who made billions in the fisheries and oil-and-gas sectors, told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten.
"This vessel is part of it," he said -- without revealing what else he plans to do with his fortune.
The research ship will carry 30 crew members and 60 scientists, and will be built in collaboration with the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
Among other things, it will be used to conduct research on plastics in the ocean. The world's oceans are expected to contain more plastic waste than fish by 2050, because of the massive use of the material, the World Economic Forum in Davos concluded in January.
The ship will also collect plastic from the water and melt up to five tons a day.
"This vessel will be able to take marine research to a completely new level. Finding solutions has never been more urgent," the head of WWF Norway Nina Jensen said in a statement.
Rokke controls several companies through his 66.7-percent stake in holding company Aker, including oil production group Aker BP, oil services group Aker Solutions, engineering group Kvaerner and biotech and fisheries group Aker Biomarine.