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A real options perspective on R&D portfolio diversification


  • van Bekkum, Sjoerd
  • Pennings, Enrico
  • Smit, Han


This paper shows that the conditionality of investment decisions in R&D has a critical impact on portfolio risk, and implies that traditional diversification strategies should be reevaluated when a portfolio is constructed. Real option theory argues that research projects have conditional or option-like risk and return properties, and are different from unconditional projects. Although the risk of a portfolio always depends on the correlation between projects, a portfolio of conditional R&D projects with real option characteristics has a fundamentally different risk than a portfolio of unconditional projects. When conditional R&D projects are negatively correlated, diversification only slightly reduces portfolio risk. When projects are positively correlated, however, diversification proves more effective than conventional tools predict.

Suggested Citation

  • van Bekkum, Sjoerd & Pennings, Enrico & Smit, Han, 2009. "A real options perspective on R&D portfolio diversification," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 1150-1158, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:38:y:2009:i:7:p:1150-1158

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hartmann, Marcus & Hassan, Ali, 2006. "Application of real options analysis for pharmaceutical R&D project valuation--Empirical results from a survey," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 343-354, April.
    2. Engwall, Mats, 2003. "No project is an island: linking projects to history and context," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 789-808, May.
    3. Prencipe, Andrea & Tell, Fredrik, 2001. "Inter-project learning: processes and outcomes of knowledge codification in project-based firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1373-1394, December.
    4. Cassimon, D. & Engelen, P. J. & Thomassen, L. & Van Wouwe, M., 2004. "The valuation of a NDA using a 6-fold compound option," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 41-51, January.
    5. Ringuest, Jeffrey L. & Graves, Samuel B. & Case, Randy H., 2004. "Mean-Gini analysis in R&D portfolio selection," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 154(1), pages 157-169, April.
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    7. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "Portfolio Selection," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 7(1), pages 77-91, March.
    8. Thomke, Stefan H., 1997. "The role of flexibility in the development of new products: An empirical study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 105-119, March.
    9. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-654, May-June.
    10. Scherer, F. M. & Harhoff, Dietmar, 2000. "Technology policy for a world of skew-distributed outcomes," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4-5), pages 559-566, April.
    11. Stefan Wörner & Boryana Racheva-Iotova & Stoyan Stoyanov, 2002. "Calibration of a basket option model applied to company valuation," Mathematical Methods of Operations Research, Springer;Gesellschaft für Operations Research (GOR);Nederlands Genootschap voor Besliskunde (NGB), vol. 55(2), pages 247-263, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:appene:v:195:y:2017:i:c:p:487-502 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Fernandes, Glaucia & Perobelli, Fernanda Finotti Cordeiro & Brandão, Luiz Eduardo T., 2016. "A model for valuing new technologies under a pull incentives environment," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 482-493.
    3. Jonathan Linton & Nicholas Vonortas, 2015. "From Research Project to Research Portfolio: Meeting Scale and Complexity," Foresight and STI Governance (Foresight-Russia till No. 3/2015), National Research University Higher School of Economics, vol. 9(2), pages 38-43.

    More about this item


    Real options Portfolio analysis Research & Development;

    JEL classification:

    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


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