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Strategic Research Partnerships: Proceedings from an NSF Workshop

Strategic Research Partnerships: Results of the Workshop

Albert N. Link
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Nicholas S. Vonortas
The George Washington University

  1. Introduction
  2. Chronology of Related Indicators by NSF
  3. Overview of Background Papers
  4. Developing SRP Indicators By SRS

I. Introduction top

A strategic research partnership (SRP) can be broadly defined as an innovation-based relationship that involves, at least partly, a significant effort in research and development. The objectives of this workshop on strategic research partnerships were to evaluate:

This paper summarizes the salient points of the background papers that follow in this report, as well as the general discussion during the workshop. To advance NSF's interest in the possibility of developing indicators related to SRPs, the papers and the discussion appraised the potential use and the nature of such indicators. The approach was essentially based on two questions:

There is little doubt as to the answer to the first question. Prior research has shown that SRPs constitute an important-and probably increasing-component of the innovation system, and the papers presented and discussed at the workshop confirm this. There is a long list of reasons why this is so. In a few words, it can be argued that SRPs are socially useful because they expand the effective R&D resources applied to innovative investment.

Second, the background papers and the discussion during the workshop clearly indicated that existing data on SRPs suffer from various shortcomings. There is a need to develop systematic tracking of the incidence of the inputs and outputs associated with various types of SRPs.

Analytical and policy needs have traditionally driven the construction of new statistical indicators. Specific broad policy questions apply pressure and "pull" such indicators. The literature and, more generally, the understanding of a phenomenon is mature enough to be able to support methodologically the construction of efficient indicators. It was the consensus of opinion at the workshop that this is exactly where we now are with respect to SRPs; SRS should begin a systematic collection of statistical information related to various dimensions of SRP activity.

Section II of this paper summarizes the chronology of innovation-related indicators that NSF has developed. Section III presents our interpretative summary of the salient points from the background papers presented at the workshop and the discussion that followed as related to the first of the two objectives of this workshop: What are the policy needs for indicators related to the formation, activities, and economic consequences of alliances and SRPs? What data and indicators are currently available about alliances and SRPs? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Section IV summarizes the workshop discussion that was related to the second of the two objectives: How should the Science Resources Studies (SRS) Division of NSF proceed to develop SRP indicators?

II. Chronology of Related Indicators by NSF top

NSF has had significant experience with indicators related to strategic research partnerships, R&D collaboration, and technology transfer. The chronology of the introduction of these indicators is:

III. Overview of Background Papers top

Nine background papers were commissioned and presented at the workshop. The salient points from these papers are:

IV. Developing SRP Indicators by SRS top

It emerged from the background papers and the expert discussion during the workshop that:

Experts believe that there is a need for ongoing, systematic, and coordinated documentation and reporting of:

There is a clear sense that multiple measures of inputs and outputs, each reflecting the particular circumstances of a type of SRP, are useful and appropriate. Appropriate data could and should be integrated from a variety of sources in order to be useful in answering various, and quite different, policy- and strategy-oriented questions that analysts ask in relation to SRPs.

It would certainly prove useful to have information on:

Such lists are limited only by the imagination of the analyst, however, and are often beyond the means of responsible agencies to collect.

Four important considerations for SRS were discussed:

The discussion covered a wide range - it was meant to be brainstorming, after all. This was the first time that such a gathering took place in the United States. Nonetheless, several important indications were signaled to SRS representatives. They included:

Although the workshop produced a useful dialogue, it was by no means conclusive. It clearly underlined the importance of a continuing, proactive discussion between experts and the SRS regarding the most appropriate procedure for developing SRP indicators.

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