Frascati definition of research

For the purposes of various statutory returns (such as research income figures returned under the Research Activity Survey and published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency), research is defined by the conventions set out in the Frascati Manual.

The Frascati Manual is the internationally recognised methodology for collecting and using R&D statistics.

Definition of research

Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.

To qualify as R&D, an activity must be all of the following:

  1. novel
  2. creative
  3. uncertain
  4. systematic
  5. transferable and/or reproducible

The term 'R&D' covers three types of activity: basic research, applied research and experimental development.

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Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.

Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective.

Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.


The Frascati Manual lists types of activities that are excluded from R&D and examples of borderline cases for different areas of research.

Activities that should normally be excluded include:

  • scientific and technical information services
  • testing and standardisation
  • feasibility studies
  • specialised health care
  • policy-related studies
  • programmatic evaluations
  • purely R&D financing activities
  • indirect supporting activities