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Objectives

The objectives of this study are:

  1. To define what is meant by the critical mass of public R&D programmes;
  2. To assess whether, and to what extent, in selected S&T areas, public R&D programmes in Europe are individually and collectively achieving critical mass;
  3. To explain why/why not in these selected S&T areas, the public R&D programmes in Europe are individually and collectively achieving critical mass;
  4. To reflect on possible policy implications.

Within the first objective the consortium will therefore develop a definition of critical mass, identify the determinants of critical mass, and identify/develop indicators/methods to assess critical mass on the basis of a literature overview.

The consortium with the support of a pool of experts during a focus group exercise will:

First, develop a clear definition of critical mass.

What is meant when it is said that public R&D programmes in Europe in a particular S&T area are individually and/or collectively achieving or not achieving critical mass? Is critical mass related to:

  • The number of projects supported by the programme(s)?
  • The size of projects supported by the programme(s)?
  • The quality of research supported by the programme(s)?
  • The effectiveness and efficiency of the programme(s) (e.g. S&T output per euro invested)?
  • The scope of the programme(s) (thematic, methodological, etc.)?
  • The degree of competition for funding from the programme?
  • The output of the programme (e.g. publications, patents, training, cooperation, spin-offs, etc.)?
  • The degree of inter-connectedness with other research programmes, with industry, with the international (extra-European) research community, etc.?

Second, identify the determinants of the threshold of critical mass in a particular S&T area. They may include:

  • Whether the area is already mature or (still) in rapid development;
  • The extent to which the area consists of different sub-areas between which there may or may not exist economies of scope (cross-fertilisation/spillovers);
  • The degree to which the area is marked by international competition;
  • Whether the area is intensive in terms of specialised research-infrastructure (high fixed costs) or not, and the extent to which such infrastructure is already available locally;
  • Whether the area is intensive in terms of highly specialised human resources (HR), the extent to which such HR are already available locally, and the extent to which there exists global competition for such HR;
  • The size of the country and the complexity of the national innovation system;
  • The degree to which already locally available resources/capabilities are connected and interacting with each other, and exploiting economies of complementarity (clustering);
  • The degree to which international networks promoting economies of complementarity are possible/already exist in the area, and the extent to which locally available resources/capabilities are connected with/embedded in such networks;

Third, identify/develop indicators/methods to assess whether public R&D programmes in Europe in a particular S&T area are individually and collectively achieving critical mass.