It's not that simple. A lot of groundbreaking work is the result of side project within a larger research effort. Google is a good example of this. The ideas and approach had their origins in the NSF project Larry and Sergey were working on. While the SDLP project probably had an impact on digital libraries, the stated goal of the work, the larger impact was the creation of a technology behemoth with thousands of US jobs and a major influence on the digital economy. Using your model, would Google have happened? Probably not.
Also, the way you posed the question is interesting for other reasons. Whether a person changes their behavior is often based on far more than just basic science and technology advancements. Issues like federal policy (political science) can have a huge impact. For example, I'm working on technology research related to the aging of the population. This is a very real societal need and it is easy to justify the work from a financial perspective (take a look at nursing home and caregiver costs). However, many health and independence technologies are intertwined with privacy, whether Medicare will pay, and other non-technical issues. We rely on the insights of our colleagues doing research in the social sciences to help us understand the interplay between functionality and barriers to acceptance and commercialization. Without their research, we'd probably make very expensive paperweights.