Countries in Africa are pledging more resources for agricultural development and agricultural research, in line with the 2003 Maputo declaration. However, experts have reasoned that the quantity of resources is as important as the quality of spending. If resources are allocated efficiently, more could be achieved with the same resources. Ensuring an effective strategy and basis for prioritising crop research investments so as to improve productivity is a major challenge in Zambia and other African countries. This study investigates the economic returns of investment in crop research and sets priorities for research investment using the Dynamic Research Evaluation for Management (DREAM) model. The findings show that maize, soya beans, groundnuts, cotton, millet, sunflower and sorghum are the crops that should receive priority in terms of funding for research under the efficiency objective. However, the study showed that the allocation of financial resources towards crop research in Zambia is not aligned with the social and economic returns of that investment. Nonetheless, positive returns from crop research investments were obtained, which suggests that investing in crop research is worthwhile but that attention needs to be paid to the appropriate research priorities. This is critical for improved competitiveness in Zambian agriculture. The study recommends further investment in and robust prioritisation of crop research, complemented by improved infrastructure, institutions and markets for a thriving agricultural sector.