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The newsletter of the Innovation and SMEs Programme
 

May 2001

 
Policy News

FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME

 


EU Research -
Adding Value?

 
    In recent years, additionality has become a central criterion in evaluating the role of publicly funded research and development programmes. But it is important to avoid a simplistic application of this concept in assessing the impact of EU intervention.

"The concealed value of intangible effects" -

"The concealed value of intangible effects" -
Dr Terttu Luukkonen,
VTT Group for Technology Studies.

T he concept of additionality was originally developed in the early 1980s to help justify public support for private-sector research. The aim was to demonstrate that public funds did not substitute corporate investment in research and development, but were in some way additional to it.

Dr Terttu Luukkonen, Director of the VTT Group for Technology Studies in Finland, has carried out extensive research on the role of the EU's Research Framework Programmes in supporting companies' research efforts, looking particularly at the concept of additionality. She argues that the current use of additionality is based on simplified assumptions and does not adequately assess the impact of public programmes.

Trivial pursuit?

Luukkonen has developed a classification of public research programmes based on a cross-evaluation of their perceived 'strategic value' and 'additionality' (see table).

'Ideal' research is defined as strategically important work which would not have been carried out without government funding for reasons of uncertainty, risk or cost. In this case, the added value of public support is clear. On the other hand, research which companies do not consider strategically important enough to carry out without external funding is defined as 'trivial'.

Luukkonen points out that longer-term projects are often regarded as trivial because their commercial outcome is uncertain. She argues, however, that such trivial projects may in fact turn out to be strategically important, and are crucial to expanding our knowledge base. "These are often capacity-building projects which may open up new areas of economic exploitation in the future," she says. "If research policy places too much emphasis on ideal additionality, it risks a dangerous short-termism."

Network benefits

A survey of participants in the Third and Fourth Framework Programmes (1) suggests a relatively high level of 'ideal' projects in terms of additionality - 45% of industrial survey respondents would not have undertaken the work in the absence of EU support and felt that the work conducted was of high strategic importance.

But the 'trivial' and 'substitution' categories may conceal important areas of European added value which lie less in the research results themselves than in less tangible effects related to networking, transnational collaboration and critical mass. Of the industrial survey respondents, 33% said they would have done the research anyway, but with smaller budgets, reduced objectives, fewer partners and over longer timescales. These results are endorsed by a recent Innovation Policy study, 'European Innovative Enterprises' (2) , which found that firms often value participation in EU projects more as a way to extend their technical and commercial networks than as a basis for research as such.

Luukkonen concludes that the added value of European research does not necessarily lie in the funding of research which would not otherwise have been carried out - its simple 'additionality'. Instead, this added value may arise from its capacity to change the way in which research is carried out in Europe.

(1) Five-Year Assessment of the European Union Research and Technological Development Programmes, 1995-1999, Appendix III. The reports are available at /fp5/5yr_ reports.htm
(2) EUR 17024 - the report is available on written request to (email removed)

Contact

  • Dr T. Luukkonen , VTT Group for Technology Studies
    Tl. +358 9 456 4185
    Fx. +358 9 456 7007
    (email removed)


   
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