K.U.Leuven - Departement toegepaste economische wetenschappen
DTEW Research Report 0501 pages:1-34
An inherent characteristic of R&D projects is technological uncertainty, which may result in project failure, and time and resources spent without any tangible return. In pharmaceutical projects, for instance, stringent scientific procedures have to be followed to ensure patient safety and drug efficacy in pre-clinical and clinical tests before a medicine can be approved for production. A project consists of several stages, and may have to be terminated in any of these stages, with typically a low likelihood of success. In project planning and scheduling, this technological uncertainty has typically been ignored, and project plans are developed only for scenarios in which the project succeeds. In this paper, we examine how to schedule projects in order to maximize their expected net present value, when the project activities have a probability of failure, and where an activity's failure leads to overall project termination. We formulate the problem, show that it is NP-hard and develop a branchand- bound algorithm that allows to obtain optimal solutions. We also present polynomial-time algorithms for special cases, and present a number of managerial insights for R&D project and planning, including the advantages and disadvantages of parallelization of R&D activities in different settings.