The Frascati Manual[1] is used as a reference book for defining R&D (Research and Development). We propose to make a dissection of the last revision of the Frascati Manual[2] published on October 8, 2015.

This paper will focus on chapter 2 concerning the definition of R&D by giving extracts of the Manual.


The definition of R&D in the new version is consistent with the definition used in the previous version. “The term R&D covers three types of activity:

  • Basic research: experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view;
  • Applied research: original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective;
  • Experimental development: systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products[3] or processes[4] or to improving existing products or processes.”

Here are some examples given in the Frascati Manual

Basic Research Applied Research Experimental Development
Chemistry Study of a given class of polymerization reactions under various conditions Optimization of a reaction with respect to the production of polymers with given physical or mechanical properties Scaling up of the process that has been optimized at the laboratory level and investigating and evaluating possible methods of producing the polymer as well as products to be made from it
Physics Modelling of a crystal’s absorption of electromagnetic radiation Study of the absorption of electromagnetic radiation by this material under varying conditions of temperatures, impurities, concentration,… to obtain given properties (sensitivity, rapidity, etc.) of radiation detection Testing a new device using this material in order to obtain a better detector of radiation than those already existing
Physics-Chemistry Study about how the properties of carbon fibers could change according to their relative position and orientation within a structure Conceptualization of a method to allow for processing carbon fibers at industrial level in nano-scale Testing the use of new composite materials for different purposes
Biology Development of a new method for classification of immunoglobulin sequences Investigations undertaken in an effort to distinguish between antibodies for various diseases Devising a method for synthesizing the antibody for a particular disease on the basis of knowledge of its structure and clinical tests of the effectiveness of the synthetized antibody on patients
Computer Science Searching for alternative methods of computation, such as quantum computation and quantum information theory Investigation into the application of information processing in new fields or in new way (e.g. developing a new programming language, new operating systems, program generators, etc.) and investigation into application of information processing to develop tools such as geographical information and expert systems Development of new application software and substantial improvement to operating systems and application programs


The previous version of the Frascati Manual gives the basic criterion for distinguishing R&D from related activities as “the presence of an appreciable element of novelty and the resolution of scientific and/or technological uncertainty, i.e. when the solution to the problem is not readily apparent to someone familiar with the basic stock of common knowledge and techniques for the area concerned.” The new version provides guidance on what is and what is not R&D activity by defining five cumulative criteria requiring the activity to be

  • Novel -> to be aimed at new findings;
  • Creative -> to be based on original, not obvious, concepts and hypotheses;
  • Uncertain about its final outcome (or at least about the quantity of time and resources needed to achieve it);
  • Systematic -> to be planned and budgeted;
  • Transferable and/or reproducible -> to lead to results that could be possibly reproduced.


[3] Product refers to a good or a service.
[4] Process refers to the transformation of inputs to outputs and to their delivery or to organizational structures or practices.

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Frascati Manual dissection, chapter 2: definition of Research and Development

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