The transistor, the LED, and the medical isotope technetium-99m are important applications of science, yet as far as I know none of them was invented as the result of a government initiative to fund industrially relevant research.
The transistor was invented at Bell Labs. The LED was invented at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and technetium-99m was discovered—and its usefulness to medicine recognized—at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
My short list is not meant to buttress an argument that governments shouldn’t fund applied, goal-directed research. They should. The challenge lies is striking the right balance between basic and applied research. If a government overemphasizes applied research, it risks depriving basic researchers of the funds they need to make discoveries and inventions that could prove industrially important.
[from Charles Day, "Striking the right balance between basic and applied research", The Dayside, 21 April 2011.]