Public Organization Review

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 473–491 | Cite as

Metabolism of Public Research Organizations: How Do Laboratories Consume State Subsidies?

  • Mario CocciaEmail author


The goal of this study is to suggest a new approach, called metabolism of research organizations, which analyzes how labs consume public funding to manage their structures. A case study of one of the biggest European public research organizations reveals that public funding for research is mainly used for the cost of personnel, which has a growth rate higher than revenue (state subsidy and public contracts over time). This imbalance of growth rates within public research body under study seems to be a source of organizational inefficiencies. This new approach can support best practices of R&D management.


Research laboratories Research organizations R&D investments Research funding Research sector Cost analysis Cost of personnel Economics of science State subsidy Metabolism R&D management 



The author is grateful to an anonymous referee and seminar participants at Arizona State University (ASU) for helpful suggestions and comments. Research results and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASU and CNR. The author declares that he has no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research discussed in this paper. Usual disclaimer applies.


The research in this paper was conducted while the author was a visiting scholar of the School of Public Affairs and Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity at the Arizona State University funded by CNR - National Research Council of Italy and The National Endowment for the Humanities (Research Grant n. 0072373–2014 and n. 0003005–2016). Older versions of this paper circulated as working papers.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNR – National Research Council of ItalyMoncalieriItaly

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