Valuing FSA R&D Activity

In recent years, government departments and agencies have aimed to better understand the range of impacts and benefits arising from public funding for research and development (R&D) activities. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) funds R&D across a broad spectrum of areas including consumer and business behaviour; food risks; targeted surveillance and regulation; and assessing the impact of innovative technologies on food systems. Through this investment, FSA aims to address research gaps supporting priority needs, addressing improvements in public health and consumer confidence, and more flexible, cost effective approaches to regulation.

The benefits from FSA funded research can be direct, such as investing in R&D to develop and validate innovative testing technologies; or indirect and much harder to measure and attribute, such as new food safety standards which may lead to positive social impacts.  Many FSA R&D activities tend to fall within the latter category

Previous attempts to assess the benefits delivered by FSA research have met with limited success, and the FSA’s own review of the literature concluded that none of the published valuation methodologies met FSA’s need. The current project was therefore commissioned to develop a new Research and Development Valuation Approach (the RDVA) that could be used to inform the prioritisation of future R&D investment.

The aim is to develop a methodology, compatible with the new  business case model currently being used in FSA, that recognises the challenges of valuing benefits that may be uncertain. 

We carried out a programme of workshops, interviews, literature and document review, to design a bespoke methodology.  A key theme that emerged from this work was the need to articulate more clearly in the business case the benefits of the research to the ultimate beneficiaries – generally members of the public – and the pathway by which the benefit is delivered. 

The RDVA was tested as a proof of concept.  We then worked with FSA project officers to apply it to a wide range of R&D projects at different stages of the project lifecycle to build up a library of case study examples.  The case studies were used to refine the RDVA ready for implementation as part of FSA’s ‘five case’ business case model.

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