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

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Street-level priority-setting: The role of discretion in implementation of research, development, and innovation priorities

AU - Brattström, Erik

AU - Hellström, Tomas

PY - 2019/4

Y1 - 2019/4

N2 - 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.

AB - 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.

KW - Priority-setting

KW - RDI

KW - Implementation

KW - Street-level bureaucracy

KW - Funding agency

U2 - 10.1016/j.enpol.2018.12.006

DO - 10.1016/j.enpol.2018.12.006

M3 - Article

VL - 127

SP - 240

EP - 247

JO - Energy Policy

T2 - Energy Policy

JF - Energy Policy

SN - 1873-6777

ER -