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Istituto Superior Tecnico Lisbon November 4, 2012 Science and technology policy. An old and new issue Giorgio Sirilli CERIS - CNR. Science and technology policy. A history which starts after WW2. 1940s. 2010s. competitiveness. social needs. innovation. science. technology.

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Istituto Superior Tecnico


November 4, 2012

Science and technology policy.

An old and new issue

Giorgio Sirilli


science and technology policy
Science and technology policy

A history which starts after WW2




social needs





science and technology policy1
Science and technology policy

Report “Science the Endless Frontier” 1945 (Vannevar Bush)

science the endless frontier
Science the Endless Frontier


- Military security

  • Health


  • Science policy

“The Government is particularly fitted to perform certain functions, such as the coordination and support of broad programs on problems of great national importance”

“Scientific progress on a broad front results from the play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity fro exploration of the unknown. Freedom of inquiry must be preserved under any plan for Government support of science”

science the endless frontier1
Science the endless frontier

“Publicly and privately supported colleges and universities and the endowed research institutes must furnish both the new scientific knowledge and the trained research workers. It is chiefly in these institutions that scientists may work in an atmosphere which is relatively free from the adverse pressure of convention, prejudice, or commercial necessity. At their best they provide the scientific worker with a strong sense of solidarity and security, as well as a substantial degree of personal intellectual freedom.”

“Industry is generally inhibited by preconceived goals, by its own clearly defined standards, and by the constant pressure of commercial necessity. Satisfactory progress in basic science seldom occurs under conditions prevailing in the normal industry laboratory.”

the beauty of research
The beauty of research

Jim March

Our task consists of carrying out research projects which are beautiful in terms of rigor, persistence, competence, elegance, and of their grace, in such a way to avoid the plague of mediocrity which often threatens to overwhelm us.

rationale for public policy
Rationale for public policy
  • Strategic-military
  • Prestige (Concorde)
  • Need of large capitals and high risk
  • Support to international competitiveness of industry
  • Basic knowledge with long term benefits
  • Non appropriable knowledge
  • Sectors characterised by small firms (agriculture)
  • Service sector (health)
how do governments organise and implement their s t policy
How do governments organise and implement their S&T policy?
  • Government ministries, departments
  • Funding agencies
  • Performing agencies
nabs objectives
  • Exploration and exploitation of the earth
  • Environment
  • Exploration and exploitation of space
  • Transport, telecommunication and other infrastructures
  • Energy
  • Industrial production and technology
  • Health
  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Culture, recreation, religion and mass media
  • Political and social systems, structures and processes
  • General advancement of knowledge: R&D financed from general university funds (GUF)
  • General advancement of knowledge: R&D financed from other sources than GUF
  • Defence

Government budget appropriations or outlays on R&D (GBAORD) are all appropriations allocated to R&D in central government or federal budgets and therefore refer to budget provisions, not to actual expenditure

science policy in italy
Science policy in Italy

Source: OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2012

the government visible hand
The government visible hand

Before launching the platform of iOS products, Apple received enormous support from the government:

  • direct investment in the stage of creation of the enterprise ($500,000 from the Small Business Investment Corporation)
  • access to technologies developed by government programmes
  • fiscal, commercial, technologicval policies aimed at supporting American firms
the technologies behind the iphone ipad
The technologies behind the iPhone, iPAD
  • Micro hard disk
  • Micro chips
  • Touchscreen display
  • Internet
  • GPS
  • LCD screens

All of them developed with the support of government

the success of apple
The success of Apple

Apple carries out little R&S compared with competitors

Apple does not concentrate on the development of new technologies, but on their integration in an innovative architecture

It success is based on:

recongition of high-potential new technologies

integration on complex engineering competencies

clear vision based on products oriented towards design and consumetrs’ satisfction

the role of the state
The role of the state

The conventional wisdom: the state fixes market failures, but it does not create or shape markets actively

The public sector is often seen as sclerotic and conservative, in contrast to a dynamic and innovative private sector


The public sector usually bears the highest risk of funding innovation without reaping the rewards (socialise risks and privatise rewards)

A case in point: Apple turnover 76.4 $ billion

75% of the most innovative drugs owe their funding not to Big Pharma or to venture capital, but to that of the National Institutes of Health

From the internet to nanotech, most of the fundamental advances – in both basic research but also downstream commercialisation – were funded by government, with business moving into the game only once the returns were in clear sight

the role of the state1
The role of the state

Ironically, one of the governments that have been most active on the front of directing public investment which changed the market landscape though innovation is the US government

The government creates a vision which steers business investment

some final comments
Some final comments

The role of government in S&T is key

Neo-liberal appoaches (not only in the US)

Risk involved in public intervention

Return of public investment in R&D

The European Lisbon target of R&D/GDP 3%

The legitimation on science in society