Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation
Quantitative indicators for high-risk/high-reward research
This paper describes the key characteristics of high-risk/high-reward research (HRHR),
which has gained considerable interest from policy makers as a way to promote the
development of new, ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas. It identifies three dimensions that are
accentuated in HRHR research: higher levels of basicness, generality and novelty.
These knowledge characteristics are commonly associated with market failure and research
that requires public investment because it has large spill-overs, long time horizons
and high levels of uncertainty. This is illustrated with examples of specific discoveries
embedding each knowledge characteristic and the application of appropriate quantitative
measures. The paper concludes with the computation and demonstration of an indicator
of novelty that may be particularly well suited for the monitoring and evaluation
of HRHR research policies.