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.

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Keywords Portfolio analysis , Real options, Research & Development
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Series ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal Research Policy
van Bekkum, S, Pennings, H.P.G, & Smit, J.T.J. (2009). A Real Options Perspective On R&D Portfolio Diversification. Research Policy, 38(7), 1150–1158. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2009.03.009