New energy technologies will play a crucial role for shaping a sustainable energy system in the future. But as of now, many research and development (R&D) proposals fail to make the transition to the market once research funding has ended. Extending public funding to cover such experimental developments could be one way to improve this transition. However, identifying promising R&D proposals for this purpose is a difficult task for three main reasons: Close-to-market implementations regularly require substantial resources while public budgets are limited; the allocation of public funds needs to be fair, open, and documented while researcher and developers are interested in protecting the intellectual property rights; and finally, the evaluation is complex and subject to public sector regulations for securing public engagement in R&D funding in the future. This calls for a rigorous evaluation process.
The recently published paper "A Decision Support System for Public Funding of Experimental Development in Energy Research" is trying to support this evaluation process. Dr. Simon Hirzel and Dr. Tim Hettesheimer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI as well as Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick and Dr. Peter Viebahn of the division Future Energy and Mobility Structures of the Wuppertal Institute hereby propose an operational three-staged decision support system. This system aims to assist decision-makers in public funding institutions in the ex-ante evaluation of R&D proposals for large-scale close-to-market projects in energy research. It was developed based on a review of literature and related approaches from practice combined with a series of workshops with practitioners from German public funding institutions. The results confirm that the decision-making process is a complex one that is not limited to simply scoring R&D proposals. Decision-makers also have to deal with various additional issues such as determining the state of technological development, verifying market failures or considering existing funding portfolios. The decision support system that is suggested by the German scientists is unique in the sense that it goes beyond mere multi-criteria aggregation procedures and addresses these issues as well to help guide decision-makers in public institutions through the evaluation process.
The full paper can be downloaded free of charge under the following link.