Changes to the funding and governance of scientific research in many countries are altering the distribution of authority over the choices and formulation of research problems and intellectual approaches for tackling them. These authority changes can be expected to reduce scientists’ willingness to work on difficult problems that (a) are uncertain to be resolved within standard project funding cycles, (b) require substantial research infrastructure, and (c) involve the development of non-mainstream approaches and techniques. The impact of these reforms was explored in an analysis of how three scientific innovations were developed from the 1990s onward in four European countries that differed in the extent to which they had implemented them. It was greatest when they together reduced levels of protected space in addition to imposing high levels of financial stringency on universities. It varied between scientific fields that differed in (a) levels of technical uncertainty, (b) dependence on the continued involvement of senior scientists in problem formulation and interpretation of evidence, and (c) length of periods of uninterrupted research time.