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The Malaysian Research and Development Classification System (MRDCS) was first introduced in the 1992 National Survey of Research and Development. It was designed for classifying and describing research areas in Malaysia and subsequently provided, the basis for the performance measurement of R&D activities. It is a useful ‘science of science policy’ tool that can improve management of R&D and better assess the impact of investments. In specific, the standard framework set up in these classifications support distinct and highly distinguishable related R&D activities for ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in setting priorities, providing funds, maximizing national R&D efforts and also as indicators for international comparisons. As the socio-economic development is dynamic and challenging, there are no limitations to the introduction of new researchable areas. The seventh edition of MRDCS is seen as a continuation and latest updates to fulfill the current direction of the country.


Two internationally recognised systems were used in conjunction with the OECD, ‘Frascati Manual’ but further improved to support a variety of user interests within the Malaysian R&D context. The classifications are:

  1. Field of Research (FOR) represents R&D activities classified according to their scientific and academic disciplines. These disciplines tend to be universally applicable, with national variations arising from the grouping of different research fields.
  2. Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) allows R&D activities to be categorised according to their purpose or presumed sectoral benefits as perceived by the researchers. It consists of discrete economical, social, environmental, technological or scientific domain for identifying the principal purpose of the R&D. This system shows greater national variation according to a nation’s profile and development priorities.

The two classification systems must be considered in tandem as they cover the same activity but from two different and important perspectives.



An R&D as defined in the Frascati Manual 2015 comprises 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. R&D activities have several aims and objectives. It could intend to achieve either specific or general objectives, uncovering new findings, increment of new knowledge based on prior arts or original concepts (and their interpretation) or hypotheses. Although the final results and outcomes are largely uncertain, (or at least about the quantity of time and resources needed to achieve it), its course of research is methodologically planned, designed and budgeted (even when carried out by individuals). The end results of research could be either freely transferred or traded in a marketplace.


There are three types of R&D, namely basic research, applied research, and experimental development. A breakdown by type of R&D is recommended for use in all four of the sectors (business enterprise; higher education; government; and private non-profit) used in this manual and they have been defined by Frascati Manual 2015.

  1. Basic research:
    • 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. Basic research analyses properties, structures and relationships with a view to formulating and testing hypotheses, theories or laws. The reference to no “particular application in view” in the definition of basic research is crucial, as the performer may not know about potential applications when doing the research or responding to survey questionnaires.
  2. Applied research:
    • Original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective. Applied research is undertaken either to determine possible uses for the findings of basic research or to determine new methods or ways of achieving specific and predetermined objectives. It involves application of available knowledge and its extension in order to solve practical problems in real life. The results of applied research are intended primarily to be valid for possible applications to products, operations, methods or systems. Applied research gives operational form to ideas.
  3. Experimental development:
    • ​​​​​​A 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 concept of experimental development should not be confused with “product development”, which is the overall process – from the formulation of ideas and concepts to commercialisation – aimed at bringing a new product (good or service) to the market.
    • Experimental development is just one possible stage in the product development process: that stage when generic knowledge is actually tested for the specific applications needed to bring such a process to a successful end. During the experimental development stage new knowledge is generated, and that stage comes to an end when the R&D criteria (novel, uncertain, creative, systematic, and transferable and/or reproducible) no longer apply.

The relationship between basic research, applied research and experimental development has to be seen within a dynamic perspective. It is possible that applied research and experimental development could adapt fundamental knowledge arising from basic research directly for general application. However, the linearity of such a process is affected by the feedback that takes place when knowledge is used to solve a problem. This dynamic interaction between knowledge generation and the solution of problems links basic and applied research and experimental development.


According to Frascati Manual 2015, there are five core criteria that have to be jointly satisfied before an activity could be classified as a R&D. These five criteria must be met and satisfied, at least in principle, every time, regardless of whether the R&D activity is undertaken on a continuous or occasional basis.

Criteria 1: Novelty

New knowledge is an expected objective of an R&D project, but it has to be adapted to different contexts. For example, research projects in universities are expected to pursue entirely new advancements in knowledge, and the same can be said for projects designed and managed by research institutes. For business enterprise sector on the other hand compares and assesses the potentially novel R&D projects with the existing stock of knowledge in the industry. The R&D activity within the project must result in findings that are new to the business and not already in use in the industry. Excluded from R&D are activities undertaken to copy, imitate or reverse engineer as a means of gaining knowledge, as this knowledge is not novel.

Novelty could result from a project to reproduce an existing result that finds potential discrepancies. An experimental development project aimed at creating knowledge in support of the development of new concepts and ideas related to the design of new products or processes should be included in R&D. As R&D is the formal creation of knowledge, including knowledge embodied in products and processes, the measurement focus is on the new knowledge, not on the new or significantly improved products or processes resulting from the application of the knowledge. An example of R&D could be the integration of the “maintenance manual” of a very complex system (like a passenger aircraft) with additional material emerging from practical experience in ordinary maintenance and properly codified, so long as this was done as part of an R&D project.

Criteria 2: Creative

An R&D project must have as an objective new concepts or ideas that improve on existing knowledge. This excludes from R&D any routine change to products or processes and, therefore, a human input is inherent to creativity in R&D. As a result, an R&D project requires the contribution of a researcher. There must be creativity, but the other criteria must be confirmed too to qualify the activity as R&D. While routine activity is excluded from R&D, new methods developed to perform common tasks are included. As an example, data processing is not an R&D activity unless it is part of a project to develop new methods for data processing. Vocational training is excluded from R&D, but new methods to deliver training could be R&D. A new method to fix a problem, developed as part of a project, could be R&D if the outcome is original and the other criteria are met. The process or method or final outcome must not be too obvious. If it is so, it would be regarded as common knowledge and would not pass the novelty or creativity test.

Criteria 3: Uncertainty

R&D involves uncertainty, which has multiple dimensions. At the outset of an R&D project, the kind of outcome and the cost (including time allocation) cannot be precisely determined relative to the goals. In the case of basic research, which is aimed at extending the boundaries of formal knowledge, there is a broad recognition of the possibility of not achieving the intended results. For example, a research project may succeed in eliminating a number of competing hypotheses, but not all of them. For R&D in general, there is uncertainty about the costs, or time, needed to achieve the expected results, as well as about whether its objectives can be achieved to any degree at all. For example, uncertainty is a key criterion when making a distinction between R&D prototyping (models used to test technical concepts and technologies with a high risk of failure, in terms of applicability) and non-R&D prototyping (preproduction units used to obtain technical or legal certifications).

Criteria 4: Systematic

R&D is a formal activity that is performed systematically. In this context “systematic” means that the R&D is conducted in a planned way, with records kept of both the process followed and the outcome. To verify this, the purpose of the R&D project and the sources of funding for the R&D performed should be identified. The availability of such records is consistent with an R&D project that is aimed at addressing specific needs and has its own human and financial resources. While the management and reporting structure just described is more likely to be found in large projects, it can also apply to small scale activities where it would be sufficient to have one or more employees or consultants (providing that a researcher was included) charged with producing a specific solution to a practical problem. Based on the given information, it would enable any third party to independently repeat the same process or method and produce the same result in the need to refer to the other sources of information or person. If the answer is yes, then the knowledge could be reproduced or transferable.

Criteria 5: Transferable and/or Reproducible

An R&D project should result in the potential for the transfer of the new knowledge, ensuring its use and allowing other researchers to reproduce the results as part of their own R&D activities. This includes R&D that has negative results, in the case that an initial hypothesis fails to be confirmed or a product cannot be developed as originally intended. As the purpose of R&D is to increase of the existing stock of knowledge, the results cannot remain tacit (i.e. remain solely in the minds of the researchers), as they, and the associated knowledge, would be at risk of being lost. The codification of knowledge and its dissemination is part of the usual practice in universities and research institutes, although there may be restrictions for knowledge arising through contract work or as part of a collaborative undertaking. In a business environment, the results will be protected by secrecy or other means of intellectual property protection, but it is expected that the process and the results will be recorded for use by other researchers in the business.

Current Status


The Field of Research (FOR) and Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) follows a hierarchal structure and are uniquely assigned Special code F and S respectively. The remaining descending characters indentify its Division, Category, Group and Area. The higher the hierarchy, the broader the subject area or research discipline. The FOR and SEO classifications hierarchy are assigned specific sub-codes to further portray the hierarchical differences in the classifications structure. The FOR has four hierarchical levels, starting at the Division (broadest level), Category, Group and Area (finest and where research project is allocated). Each level is identified with a unique number or code for easy reference. The illustration below show the approach to the FOR hierarchical structure:


  • 07 = MRDCS EDITION (Version 7)
  • YY = GROUP
  • ZZ = AREA

Example (FOR): F0709020107 (Policy Evaluation)

  • F = Field of Research (SYSTEM OF CLASSIFICATION)
  • 07 = MRDCS EDITION (Version 7)
  • 09 = Social Sciences (DIVISION)
  • 02 = Policy Studies (CATEGORY)
  • 01 = Policy Foundation (GROUP)
  • 07 = Policy Evaluation (AREA)

Example (SEO): S705021100 (Robust National STI Ecosystem)

  • S = Socio-Economic Objective (SYSTEM OF CLASSIFICATION )
  • 07 = MRDCS EDITION (Version 7)
  • 05 = Advancement of Knowledge (DIVISION)
  • 02 = Knowledge Networks & Ecosystem (CATEGORY)
  • 1100 = Robust National STI Ecosystem (GROUP)

n.e.c. - not elsewhere classified


The classification hierarchical manner is achieved by first determining the Division in which the research is being performed, followed by the most relevant Category within that Division and moving lower to the most relevant Group and Area within that Category.

However, since a research project or activity is located at the lowest end of the hierarchy, which is the Area level, it is up to the researcher to identify their research code either from this Area level to the higher level of the hierarchy (Group, Category and Division), or the otherwise. These guidelines are applicable for both FOR and SEO classifications.


The classifications have been designed primarily to meet the needs in classifying research projects in a more consistent and structured manner. MRDCS would be able to provide considerable flexibilities to variety of users, addressing multidisciplinary works to be applied to one or more different purposes. Therefore, multiple coding can be selected if necessary. The system used in this document would among others be applicable but not limited to the following activities:

  • Conducting National Survey for Research and Development;
  • Applying for R&D funds that using MRDCS document; and
  • Identifying and codifying of the research projects and experts in database development.

MRDCS Data Analysis   MRDCS Publication

Application Access

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MRDCS 7th Edition Code List