Funding Breakthrough Research: Promises and Challenges of the “Arpa Model”

32 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2018 Last revised: 19 Jun 2018

See all articles by Pierre Azoulay

Pierre Azoulay

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Erica R.H. Fuchs

Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

Anna Goldstein

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Michael Kearney

MIT Sloan School of Management

Date Written: June 2018

Abstract

From its 1958 origin in defense, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model for research funding has, in the last two decades, spread to other parts of the US federal government with the goal of developing radically new technologies. In this paper, we propose that the key elements of the ARPA model for research funding are: organizational flexibility on an administrative level, and significant authority given to program directors to design programs, select projects and actively manage projects. We identify the ARPA model’s domain as mission-oriented research on nascent S-curves within an inefficient innovation system. Finally, we describe some of the challenges to implementing the ARPA model, and we comment on the role of ARPA in the landscape of research funding approaches.

Suggested Citation

Azoulay, Pierre and Fuchs, Erica Renee and Goldstein, Anna and Kearney, Michael, Funding Breakthrough Research: Promises and Challenges of the “Arpa Model” (June 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24674. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3194733

Pierre Azoulay (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scripts.mit.edu/~pazoulay/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Erica Renee Fuchs

Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Anna Goldstein

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering ( email )

160 Governors Drive
Amherst, MA 01003

Michael Kearney

MIT Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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