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Public Research Institutions

Mapping Sector Trends

image of Public Research Institutions

This publication provides new information on public research institutions (PRIs) and government strategies. Public research institutions are crucial for innovation due to their role in knowledge creation and diffusion. While absolute real expenditure on R&D in this sector has risen, it now accounts for a smaller share of total R&D spending by OECD countries and of OECD GDP. The targets and focus of many PRIs have evolved in recent years. Changing activities, new policy challenges and wider economic and political developments have driven change in missions and mandates and linkages have become focal points for many. Internationalisation has also increased and relationships are frequently collaborative. PRIs’ sources of income are diverse but funding has become increasingly competitive. Funding instruments need to balance short-and long-term goals to uphold research quality and ensure the sustainability of PRI activities.  

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Executive summary

Public research institutions (PRIs) are one of the two main actors in the public research system and are a primary tool for governments seeking to spur research and innovation in their economies. PRIs remain critical for countries’ innovation and economic performance through their activities in creating, discovering, using and diffusing knowledge. Their structures, functions and performance are diverse across countries, and their activities vary according to their mission and type. Some perform “blue sky” research, while others focus on more short-term market oriented projects. Other roles can include education and training, technology transfer, the provision of major scientific infrastructure, and the support of public policy. Their activities can help firms to expand their capabilities and generate spillovers for the wider economy.

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