The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published its regularly published study “OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook 2021 – Times of Crisis and Opportunity”. The study is topic-centered and examines in particular the role of scientific research in the global fight against the COVID-19 crisis. There are also chapters on robots and “Engineering Biology” as well as on crisis mechanisms in science and innovation in general.
This year’s study shows how STI systems (Science, Technology, Innovation) have reacted to the crisis and what challenges lie ahead. It is becoming clear that the pandemic has mobilized scientific research and collaboration in unprecedented ways. However, in preparation for future pandemics, it is important to develop effective long-term models of open science, to coordinate even better internationally, and to promote research and development in a more targeted manner than before.
According to the study, many companies will sharply cut their research and development (R&D) spending due to the pandemic-induced decline in sales and profits. The government’s R&D budgets will also hardly be able to do justice to the many requests for support, especially in view of the high national debt. Both can become an obstacle to important innovation activity.
One chapter describes the consequences of COVID-19 for international R&D cooperation. The OECD calls for international cooperation to be more closely geared to global public goods and global challenges, and for new financing mechanisms to be set up. In contrast to this, the increasing tendency to isolate R&D more strongly from international cooperation, for example to protect against the theft of intellectual property and by setting standards such as the freedom of science.
Key messages of the study:
- In the early months of the pandemic, national research funding agencies in countries for which data are available rushed to allocate around $ 5 billion to research and development on COVID-19.
- Across the OECD, companies in the digital and pharmaceutical sectors increased their R&D investments in 2020. At the same time, leading companies in other sectors, e.g. B. in the automotive industry as well as in the aerospace and defense sectors, their R&D expenditures decreased.
- Around 75,000 scientific publications on COVID-19 were published in the eleven months up to the end of November 2020. Most of the contributions come from the USA and China, around a quarter of which were written together with researchers in other countries.
- More than three quarters of the scientific publications on COVID-19 are Open-Access-Publications, which means that the content is freely accessible, usable, changeable and redistributable for other researchers. All over the world have research databases and academic publishers Paywalls removed in order to promote the exchange of information among scientists.
- Government support for R&D in business has changed in recent years. It takes place more and more often in the form of tax incentives and less in the form of direct support, for example through contracts, grants or awards. In 2017, these tax advantages accounted for around 55 percent of total government funding in OECD countries (in 2006 it was 36 percent). Tax incentives are useful to promote innovation in companies, but they are not targeted. They tend to lead to existing systems, products or processes being changed (incremental innovation). Cleverly designed direct aids are better suited to promoting longer-term, higher-risk research and development, especially in areas that serve the common good.
(Editor’s note: content for reading last added on January 14, 2021)
by Anna März, VDI TZ GmbH
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Strategy and framework