The political economy of public research, or why some governments commit to research more than others

Andrea Filippetti & Antonio Vezzani


The broad consensus about the benefits of public research is at odds with the fact that investment is in general declining but with different patterns across countries. This triggers our research question: why do some governments invest in public research more than others? By relying on political economy literature, we frame investment in public research as a political choice depending on the political institutions of countries. Based on an empirical analysis on 41 countries we find a robust relationship between public-funded research and political institutions. Countries with parliamentary forms of government, proportional electoral rules and bicameralism devote larger shares of GDP and of public expenditure to research. We also find a great role of encompassing civic society organizations in encouraging public research. Political economy offers a promising perspective to delve into the patterns of public research. As for policy implications, majoritarian-like reforms might discourage long-term policies and harm the long-term potential for economic growth.

Keywords: public research, political economy, R&D

JEL Classification: O3, O38, P16, P48