Promoting the socio-economic impact of research – the role of funding practices

Despite growing emphasis on the generation of socio-economic impact of public research, our understanding of how research funders seek to stimulate societal goals and how different funding approaches may shape the nature of the research is limited. Given that funding systems are central in defining the scope, content and direction of public research, a detailed understanding of this factor is vital. 


The overall aim of the project is to explore how and to which extent research funding aimed at increasing societal contributions may shape research practices and networks in public research. This will be done in a multilevel comparative design with two research fields, renewable energy and food science, within three countries, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands


The project will explore funders’ focus and requirements in relation to a wider societal orientation of research, and examine through in-depth case studies how research funding promotes societal outcomes. 


Among the studies to be conducted in the project are:

·        Development of a conceptual framework for understanding the relation between research funding characteristics and societal expectations of research. This study will conduct exploratory interviews with researchers and funders to understand how researchers work towards societal goals in their research and navigate through varying funding dynamics. The study will carry out an analysis of funding acknowledgements from a large data set of publications. As key elements of the conceptual framework, the study will develop the notions of “funding configurations” and “societal targeting”.

·        A study of funding landscapes in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. The study will explore the rationales and operationalization of objectives to promote the socio-economic impact of research, analyzing funding landscapes at multiple levels, from national funding systems to individual funding institutions, programs and instruments. Particular attention will be devoted to mission-oriented funding instruments, as they support research within politically prioritized areas and require researchers to actively pursue socio-economic impacts.

·        A survey of researchers within renewable energy and food science in the three countries. The survey will seek to map researchers’ funding profiles and forms of collaborative research networks. This includes the characteristics, types and societal orientation of funding sources. The survey will also examine researchers’ network ties, forms of engagement and their importance for their research activities.

·        12 in-depth case studies of research groups with the two fields.  The case studies will generate insight into the extent to which and how the societal orientation of the group’s research have been shaped by funding dynamics.


The project as a whole will thus produce generalizable insights into the design and implementation of funding instruments that foster value-adding efforts to increase the socio-economic impact of research, as opposed to just stimulating compliance or strategic behavior with no or only symbolic effect.

See also the video presentation of the project at: NovoNordiskFonden-PROSECON


Click here for Publications


The Advisory Board for the PROSECON project is:

Aldo Geuna, Professor of Economic Policy, Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, University of Torino, Italy

Taran Thune, Professor - Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo, Norway

Barend van der Meulen, Professor Institutional Aspects of (Higher) Education, Director CHEPS, UTwente, Netherlands

Project Leaders

External project participants

Thomas Heinze, Professor and Deputy Director, Interdisciplinary Center of Science and Technology Studies (IZWT), University of Wuppertal, Germany.

Arlette Jappe, Senior scientist, Interdisciplinary Center for Science and Technology Studies (IZWT), University of Wuppertal, Germany.

Pablo D´Este, Tenured scientist, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV), Valencia, Spain.

Adrián A. Díaz-Faes, Postdoctoral researcher, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV), Valencia, Spain.