Evaluating research efficiency within National R&D programmes

Fernando Jiménez-Sáez*, Jon Mikel Zabala-Iturriagagoitia, José L. Zofío, Elena Castro-Martínez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Relying on efficiency analysis, we evaluate to what extent policy makers have been able to promote the establishment of consolidated and comprehensive research groups to contribute to the implementation of a successful innovation system for the Spanish food technology sector, oriented to the production of knowledge based on an application model. Using data envelopment analysis techniques that allow calculation of a generalized version of the traditional distance function model for productive efficiency, we find pervasive levels of inefficiency and a typology of different research strategies. Among these, in contrast to what has been assumed, established groups do not play the pre-eminent benchmarking role; rather, partially oriented, specialized and "shooting star" groups are the most common patterns. These results correspond with an infant innovation system, where the fostering of higher levels of efficiency and the promotion of the desired research patterns are ongoing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-241
Number of pages12
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number2
Early online date13 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We also look at the performance of the multidimensional and time consolidated research groups, which constitute the backbone of the SFIS. We highlight some of the main features of those groups considered to be representative of the specialized, partial and “shooting stars” research groups. Within the leading consolidated category, there are five research groups. Only one of these, IF-03, is efficient over time in all four periods while achieving high values in most outputs categories. 11 11 In general, to attain and maintain these standards of output mix production within the system, consolidated groups use substantial amounts of inputs, but they manage them efficiently. They are not specialized in any one single output, and engage in comprehensive research activity, participating in all three output dimensions in all four periods, achieving first-rate measures (see Table 3 ). This supports the hypothesis that the higher the efficiency and the more comprehensive the research activity, the more consolidated will be the research group over time, and consequently the higher will be its potential to contribute to the SFTPs objectives. This is exemplified by the numbers of patent applications and contracts with firms related to these groups (see Table 3 ). With reference to IG-02 and IG-03 their patterns are also regarded as being comprehensive, despite their efficiency levels drop in the second and third periods (see Table 2 ). Again, these two groups follow opposite development patterns, being IG-02 a large and consolidated one and IG-03 a smaller but emerging one. Since the large groups is able to overcome those two intermediate periods to become efficient again in the fourth, the smaller one has not been able to give a response in the same terms. The consolidation process takes a long time and the support from both the mother institution – the PRO itself and the Spanish National Research Council, (CSIC) as main institution – and policy makers who have to redesign the SFTP according to those needs already detected. In short, IG-02 led PhD dissertations (6) and international publications (38) output dimensions during the first period, being also concerned with the registration of patents and R&D contracts with firms, following the pace of IF-03. Then its efficiency decreased during the second period due to the fact that no PhD theses were defended. This is also related to the personnel, and accordingly to the budget received from the SFTP, which respectively decreased from 14 to 11 researchers (personnel) and from &z.euro;213 810 to &z.euro;154 700 (funding). Then, the group became efficient again in the fourth period mainly due to a better balance between the inputs received from the SFTP and the production of a multidimensional output mix. As to IG-03, the explanation for its decreasing efficiency differs from that of IG-02. During the first period, IG-03 produced a balanced output mix, not leading any of the dimensions included in our analysis, but producing all of the outputs. However, during the remaining three periods, the R&D contracts they managed to sign with firms decreased from &z.euro;75 132.53 (first period), to &z.euro;12 212.57 in the second, and even none in the third. So, their declining efficiency is mainly due to these difficulties with the R&D contracts, as the input dimensions and the other output measures kept almost constant in time. Summing up, the funding received from the SFTP scheme and the signed R&D contracts with firms have a direct influence on the efficiency levels achieved by these comprehensive research groups. However, other environmental and contextual aspects may have played an important role in these relative efficiency levels and subsequent evolving paths. In this respect the research area of IG-02 (Food biotechnology), has been far more supported by the SFTP than that of the IG-03 (Food characterisation and quality) in terms of the number of financed projects and financial support ( Jiménez-Sáez, 2005 ). This tendency is more evident from 1992 on. This is also supported by the fact that the number of publications in the food biotechnology area is much larger, and grows to a higher rate, than that of the latter area. In addition, one of the key researchers in the IG-03 group passed away in 1992 and the group began a reorganization process not finished by 1999. On the other hand, two key researchers from IG-02 have promoted in their professional careers reaching top positions, fostering the growth of the research group.


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluating research efficiency within National R&D programmes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this