Research and Development (R&D) and Innovation: from theory to practice

  • 2018•08•13     Milan

    The R&D Management Conference is an international gathering of academics and practitioners who discuss topics revolving around research and development (R&D), technology management, and innovation. The conference provides a valuable means of communication and exchange of ideas among academics and practitioners. As a long-standing event, it was first held in Manchester in 1980. Hence, this year’s edition held at Politecnico Milano in Milan (Italy) marks the 40th edition of the conference.

    This year conference was attended by more than 600 participants from 41 countries, for a total of 410 paper presentations. The conference was further attended by 120 managers and professionals from several private companies throughout Europe. The event is meant to cross-fertilise and exchange of ideas about R&D and innovation between researchers and companies. This goal is achieved by presenting some thematic workshops dedicated for, and presented by, managers and professionals of major companies, such as Adecco, SEAS, Oracle, or Microsoft. At the same time, the most recent studies by academics on these topics are also featured. Besides the core event of the conference, the parallel event shows ideas where participants will have a chance to interact with especially young inventors.

    The core of this year’s conference is a retrospection vision of what has been going on with the Industry 4.0 and several consequences for researching and academic communities. The stages of the industrial revolution have changed: from the first mechanisation of industry to mass production and assembling lines driven by the electricity sector, the emergence of computer and automation, and finally, the Industry 4.0 characterised by a cyber-physical system, big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, among other emerging technologies.

    Ibrahim Rohman, Research Fellow at UNU-EGOV, had the privilege to attend this year R&D management conference. In a co-authored paper with fellow UNU-EGOV researcher João Martins, they focused on R&D activities among Portuguese’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) firms.

    This study emphasised two points of analysis: the role of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the contribution of research and development. The role of technology to support economic growth has been identified based on several previous literature reviews. Moreover, the importance of the ICT sector is also corroborated. To exemplify, a seminal study by Van Ark, O’Mahony and Timmer (2008)  has shown that Europe did not invest in ICT and knowledge-intensive sectors, which was one of the factors that contributed to the slower growth in the region compared with the US. In other words, ICT has contributed to foster economic growth.

    The role of R&D is on the other side of the coin. Since the seminal work by Crépon, Duguet and Mairesse (1998), many studies analysed the relationships between R&D, innovation and productivity. R&D is seen as the input to increase the innovative capabilities of companies, mainly in knowledge-intensive sectors such as ICT.

    In their study, the researchers found that Portugal is among the least performers with regards to the progress made the ICT industry. Based on a European Commission report in 2017, the value added of the Portuguese ICT sector is only 2.8% of the country’s GDP, lower than the EU average of 4.2%. What is more worrying is that their Business Enterprise R&D (BERD) expenditure is relatively significant, amounting to 25% of total R&D spending. This proportion is actually higher than the average of EU27 and major ICT countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands.

    The authors then investigate why one cannot see the output of such amount of money spent on the Portuguese ICT R&D? More importantly, they research what role have governments played (to support the R&D and innovation on the Portuguese ICT sector (at local, national, and EU levels). The study used the Community Innovation Survey (CIS) data from 2012. The results show that product innovation is the core of innovative capabilities for the companies. Moreover, the study does not see that government support has helped companies to have greater R&D intensity and innovation, possibly due to the crowding out effects. Further analysis using a more thorough Crepon-Duguet- Mairesse (CDM) is to be implemented with the newer industry data using CIS and industry data released by the National Institute of Statistics.