In several sectors of industrial research an accelerating trend towards outsourcing of research and development tasks can be observed. This study analyzes the significance and importance of this trend. For this purpose, the study conducted interviews, workshops and internet research on selected sectors that are considered cutting-edge in outsourcing of R&D (automotive engineering, information technology and in particular biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry). It was examined, which types of tasks are or can be outsourced, which role technical infrastructures play in this context and what are related opportunities and risks for the clients, the R&D service suppliers and the German innovation system in general.
It has been shown that outsourcing of R&D is definitely a trend - however not a homogeneous one: There are differences between industrial sectors, between large and small enterprises, and between highly research-intensive and less research-oriented enterprises. Nonetheless, a set of first strategic recommendations could be formulated concerning a) outsourcing of R&D in the narrow sense, b) R&D oriented networking of SME and c) their co-operation with academic research. In addition the future prospect "Outsourcing of R&D by problem solving platforms and contests?" was discussed in greater detail. Surprisingly, R&D contests provide promising opportunities, but are, however, limited to applications with either rather small or really large scale (visionary) research questions.