Box 4 - Fundamental and Economically Relevant Research: The New Links.

In all industrial countries, governments have tended to shift, in recent years, to indirect actions intended to promote the development of a trade-oriented research environment: legislative and regulatory measures considered to be obstacles to the diffusion and application of knowledge have been lifted (for example, various anti-trust regulations were removed in the United States to facilitate pre-competitive research co-operation between firms); new rules were adopted to encourage scientists to take a more active interest in the exploitation of their work (for example by allowing academic research-workers and institutions to apply for patents, even when the invention had been the result of federally sponsored programs, or by relaxing academic rules so that professors could participate in commercial ventures); incentives multiplied in order to promote science-based industrial activities (i.e. fiscal incentives, schemes to develop employment of scientists by firms of all types, research funding instruments for industry-university collaborative ventures, etc.).

This focus has been accompanied by gradual re-direction of the public research support towards new types of programs, in order to channel efforts onto areas of greater economic relevance. This has affected all types of research activities. For example, institutions that have traditionally been bastions of fundamental research (from the CNRS in France to the National Science Foundation in the United States) devote more and more attention to applied research and strategic research justified by its economic implications. Pre-competitive research activities have multiplied to bring together academic and industry scientists. Certain disciplines receive renewed attention and expanded support, when they relate to the "sciences of the artificial", or "transfer sciences", ranging from mechanical and chemical engineering to medicine and pharmacy. And economic relevance increasingly becomes an essential yardstick in the assessment of research proposals everywhere.

Georges Ferné, 1993.