Discussion Paper 2: Key Questions for the Study of European RTD

Author: Jordi Molas Gallart

Discussion Paper 2 makes it clear that the measuring of European defence RTD through published data could be construed as a cornerstone for further analysis. Particularly, cross-national comparisons and longitudinal analysis is made difficult because of the lack of a common set of comparable data. For some time the CREDIT/METDAC network has tried to develop a solid data gathering and analysis element into its research projects. This is widely recognised as an important task. The "Frascati manual" states that "the distinction between military and civil R&D; is considered one of the most important functional breakdowns of national R&D; efforts" (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 1994, p.25). However, progress in the quality and quantity of data available to the researcher has been scarce and, as we will see, the definitions of defence R&D; on which the OECD bases its statistical work are not as clear as one would wish.

The information collected in our first set of working papers confirms the continuing disparity of nationally-based data sets, and the difficulties of building reliable series of defence innovation indicators covering a number of countries. This is an area in which information is lacking and still needed. Despite the reduction in defence expenditures, and the lower profile granted to defence-industrial issues after the end of the Cold War; our first set of papers shows that effort invested in defence related research and development (R&D;) continues to be very significant. This is particularly true in countries at the forefront of military technology development (United States, France and Britain).

Therefore, Discussion Paper 2 focuses on the shortcomings of present measuring tools and the difficulties inherent in improving data collection. Many of the problems have been known for decades. Yet, despite recurring discussion within academia, defence agencies and international organisations, improvements in data collection, when they have occurred, have usually been implemented only at the national level. The OECD 1993 "Frascati Manual" paid special attention to the issue of defence R&D; with a whole annex devoted to problems of measuring in defence and aerospace sector (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 1994). The basic definitions of "defence R&D;" remained, however, by and large the same as in previous editions. Besides, improving definitions would only solve part of the problem. Present changes in the structure of military production may make it even more difficult for reliable estimates to be produced in the near future. New problems may be generated if the present dual-use policies pursued by several countries meet with any degree of success. As efforts are made to improve the exploitation, both in the military and civilian funds, of R&D; efforts regardless of funding sources, military and civilian research and production activities may become more integrated. The problems of defining and confining variables like "defence R&D;" are bound to become more difficult.

Discussion Paper 2 presents some of these measuring problems referring to the papers prepared for this workshop by the different national contributions. The analysis calls for a systematic approach to the international collection of defence R&D; data. We provide a summary of the different ways of defining of defence R&D;, and suggest the type of approach that could prove more productive in the future. We also present a brief summary of the most apparent trends in the evolution of defence R&D; analysed by the different national contributions.

The Discussion Paper does not provide an analysis and integration of the sections dealing with mapping of the institutional structures of the various national defence innovation systems represented in the METDAC network. This type of analysis, more qualitative in its approach, can feed directly into the Work Packages in our Programme that deal with the definition and study of national systems of defence innovation.