Using micro-level data to assess the socio-economic impact of science funding

Session organizers:

Stefano Bianchini (s.bianchini@unistra.fr) and Patrick Llerena (pllerena@unistra.fr)


Governments and funding agencies around the world invest large amounts of money in academic research with the belief that such investments will create innovations, promote economic growth and achieve social goals. However, the way in which these investments work their way through to affecting innovation, economic growth and social well-being remains largely a black box.

Most of the public debate and policy interest has for long focused on the regional and local effects of science funding. There is certainly evidence that public R&I investments have led to patents and publications, that spillovers are larger when local universities are more intensively engaged in research, and when this research is technologically closer to local firms. Other works suggest that an increase in university expenditures in a county increases local labor income and employment growth in several sectors of the economy.

While progress has been made at the macro level, micro data need to be collected in order to better delineate the socio-economic impact of public funding for science. The scientific community has recently started to combine publicly available data, such as publications and patents, to micro-level data infrastructures containing granular information about individual researchers, their projects, their team and network formation, and more in general about their research environment. These types of data have the great potential to overcome one crucial limitations of previous macro level approaches, that is the impossibility to identify the underlying mechanisms through which knowledge generated in research projects propagates to the overall economy.

This special session calls for contributions aimed at offering insights on these underexplored mechanisms of impact (the latter being economic, social, environmental, etc.) originating from publicly funded research. Illustrative examples of regional and local impact are researchers insertion in industry, hybrid industry-university/PRO careers, user-innovation through procurement of specialized equipment and services, university/PRO-industry formal and informal interactions to foster technological innovations in fields such as health and/or clean technologies.

We also welcome scientific contributions aimed at developing new synthetic indicators to assess the local, national and international flow of highly skilled human capital, procured equipment and services from university suppliers, knowledge network between public and private research actors.