Between September 2008 and September 2009 an exercise was carried out in France, at the request of the Public Policy Modernization Committee, to define the strategic priorities of the French government in the area of research and innovation. On 2 December 2009, the Minister of Research reported to the Council of Ministers on the “national research and innovation strategy” that came out of that exercise.
Bernard David explains what method was adopted to develop that strategy and gives an account of the general report that came out of the exercise. Apart from a general introduction, the quality of which David stresses, the document highlights three priorities, though these are formulated in very general terms. The areas concerned are health, well-being, food and biotechnologies; the environmental emergency and eco-technologies; and information, communications and nanotechnologies.
Resituating this work in the French historical and organizational context (with particular regard to the distinction between the private sector, the public sector and the academic world), he demonstrates the originality of the exercise and points up the advantages of defining, as it does, five major objectives for research. However, stressing the need to make choices — and hence to define priorities more precisely — he proposes some courses of action that are interesting on two distinct counts. First, since we are speaking of the French public research effort, he stresses the need to distinguish between two questions: on the one hand, the question of the positioning (valorization) of French research at the national and international levels; on the other, the question of what France’s contribution can be to the research effort that is required to meet the great challenges of the future. Second — and even more concretely — he proposes a method of decision-making support that would help in providing precise estimates of the “social productivity” of the various investments envisaged in terms of the five general objectives laid down in the report.
In this way, the article outlines a mechanism, which, though admittedly capable of further development, is nonetheless of interest, for moving from broad orientations to genuine strategic decisions within a context of severe constraints — particularly budgetary limitations.