What I always found fascinating was inertia in economies. If a society has a dominant industrial sector, it can't switch to "knowledge society" overnight. It was puzzling to me, that focus in GalCiv II could be switched so quickly - it's like everybody goes to work in a factory today and tomorrow they work in a research center.
It should IMHO be a smother transition and take some time, depending on the magnitude of the change.
The "research-wheel" with its granular, hexagonal structure (similar to the galaxy map) might contain a simple solution. What, if a setting can only "move" 3 tiles per turn (just like ships move on the galaxy map)?
The indicators would be persistent, and updated each turn until the "destination" is reached, just like with ship movement indicators. In this way it is intuitively recognizable what is going on. Maybe technology could later on accelerate the industrial/economic adaptation rates (4 instead of 3 tiles change). Certain races like the Yor (installing a new program or subroutine is quicker than learning for humans) could have a bonus from the start. Even different game paces could be accounted for (playing a fast game - more tiles allowed, playing on marathon - only one tile change per turn).
I think this mechanism is easy to implement, transparent to the player and realistic. And it requires the player to plan ahead a little, adding a strategic element, without altering gameplay in any major way.
What do you guys think? Is economic momentum something you would like to have in Galactic Civilization III?