Street-level priority-setting: The role of discretion in implementation of research, development, and innovation priorities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research on priority-setting for research, development, and innovation (RDI) often does not take into account the many challenges associated with translating priorities into RDI programs and projects. Such implementation challenges are typically handled by RDI program officers at funding agencies i.e. those officers that manage RDI programs and projects. To address this challenge, this paper utilizes a ‘street-level bureaucracy’ approach to understanding how RDI priority-setting is enacted by program officers in the course of translating general RDI priorities into actual funding. This is done through a study of how program officers at the Swedish Energy Agency exercise discretion in the course of implementing RDI priorities. The results suggest four general dimensions of program officer discretion in priority implementation, viz. (i) regulating inflow of new knowledge and ideas, (ii) interpreting the relationship between strategy and program design, (iii) tweaking and applying selection criteria, and (iv) determining the portfolio's balance between basic research and application/innovation. The results suggest that discretion can act as an important mechanism mediating between the formulation of RDI priorities and de facto RDI investments by funding agencies. By explicating some variations of this mechanism, the study contributes new insights into the governance of RDI funding processes.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economics and Business
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Priority-setting, RDI, Implementation, Street-level bureaucracy, Funding agency
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-247
JournalEnergy Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Apr
Publication categoryResearch