This paper aims to shed light on the linkage between research and development (R&D) networks and public funding presented in a given period by using network-based evaluation tools as a means of exploring the relational dimension in public projects designed to foster technology R&D activities.
This research uses co-occurrence network analysis of relevant public projects to assess how technological associations might occur within the R&D activities of given publicly funded projects as well as conducts correlation analysis to understand the extent to which linkages of R&D activity in technology fields are related to public expenditure.
Core technology fields, regarded as eligible to receive continued public funding, are critical for enhancing competitiveness and sustainable growth at the nationally strategic technology level. Thus, the relationship between R&D and the level of government funding for these fields is generally perceived as strong. However, a few technology fields, which did not actively form specific network relationships with other technology fields, are considered to exceptionally drive the largest government support. This trend indicates that the government-funded R&D should be designed and managed not only to curb the inefficiencies existing in the current funding programs but also to achieve the appropriateness for further technology development.
Despite the comprehensive findings, this study has several limitations. First, it is difficult to control any confounding factors, such as the determinants and constraints of the government budget allocation and expenditure decisions over S&T areas, strategic frameworks for public investment and evolving policy landscapes in technology sectors, which lead to bias in the study results. Second, this study is based on a narrow, single-year data set of a specific field of projects supported by the Korean government’s R&D program. Therefore, the generalization of findings may be limited. The authors assumed that influences caused by confounding variables during the initial phase of the public funding schemes would not be significant, but they did not take into account possible factors that might arise coincident with the subsequent phase changes. As such, the issue of confounding variables needs to be carefully considered in research design to provide alternative explanations for the results that have been ruled out. The limitations of this study, therefore, could be overcome by comparing the outcome difference between subsidized and non-subsidized R&D projects or evaluating targeted funding schemes or tax incentives that support and promote various areas of R&D with sufficiently large, evidence-based data sets. Also, future research must identify and analyze the R&D activities concerning public support programs performed in other countries associated with strategic priorities to provide more profound insight into how they differ. Third, there are some drawbacks to using these principal investigators-provided classification codes, such as subjectivity, inaccuracy and non-representation. These limitations may be addressed by using content-based representations of the projects rather than using pre-defined codes. Finally, the role that government investment in R&D has played in developing new science and manufacturing technologies of materials and components through network relationships could be better examined using longitudinal analysis. Furthermore, the findings suggest the need for further research to integrate econometric models of performance outcomes such as input–output relations into the network analysis for analyzing the flow of resources and activities between R&D sectors in a national economy. Therefore, future research would be helpful in developing a methodological strategy that could analyze temporal trends in the identification of the effects of public funding on the performance of R&D activity and demand.
Public funding schemes and their intended R&D relationships still depend on a framework to generate the right circumstances for leading and promoting coordinated R&D activities while strengthening research capacity to enhance the competitiveness of technologies. Each technology field has a relatively important role in R&D development that should be effectively managed and supervised to accomplish its intended goals of R&D budgeting. Thus, when designing and managing R&D funding schemes and strategy-driven R&D relations, potential benefits and costs of using resources from each technology field should be defined and measured. In this regard, government-funded R&D activities should be designed to develop or accommodate a coordinated program evaluation, to be able to examine the extent to which public funding is achieving its objectives of fostering R&D networks, balancing the purpose of government funding against the needs of researchers and technology sectors. In this sense, the examination of public R&D relations provides a platform for discussion of relational network structures characterizing R&D activities, the strategic direction and priorities for budget allocation of the R&D projects. It also indicates the methodological basis for addressing the impact of public funding for R&D activities on the overall performance of technology fields.
The value of this work lies in a preliminary exploratory analysis that provides a high-level snapshot of the areas of metallurgy, polymers/chemistry/fibers and ceramics, funded by the Korean Government in 2016 to promote technological competitiveness by encouraging industries to maintain and expand their competencies.
Funding: This work was supported by the Korea Institute of S&T Evaluation and Planning [2018–006].
Yang, C.H. and Cho, N.H. (2023), "A network analysis for providing insights into national R&D budget allocation and investment planning", Foresight, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-10-2021-0201
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