Real options valuation: the new frontier in R&D project evaluation?
The real options approach has recently received growing attention in R&D and Technology Management research. Recent empirical findings by Ellis (1997) and Busby and Pitts (1997) also report growing attention and use in practical investment decisions. However, there is a certain concern about the applicability to a wide range of R&D related problems. The theoretical base behind options valuation is derived from the capital markets and thus assumes market conditions that are closer to the theoretical construct of ‘perfect competition’ than most other settings. Even under these conditions, several assumptions made and difficulties left are subject to controversial discussions. Of course these problems even gain importance when the R&D environment with its discontinuities and lack of regulation or institutionalized trade is assumed. This paper describes some basic properties of the real options approach and sheds light on existing problems for the application in R&D project evaluation. On the other hand, roads to application of the method are shown using the Geske model of option evaluation. One main goal of the paper is to broaden and deepen the discussion on real option models in R&D and Technology Management, which has in some cases been limited to stressing the advantages of the method rather than reflecting on applicability and concrete way of application of the method.
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