Tracking International Innovation: New Research Paper

Innovation and “innovation indicators” are not part of the common lexicon. Not all researchers follow the same definitions, and the subject is constantly evolving – by definition. This poses a problem for policymakers, says Prof. Fred Gault in our new working paper.

Innovation is the bringing to market of a new or significantly improved product, or of finding a better way to get a product to market, to paraphrase the 2005 Oslo Manual by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat. In turn, innovation indicators are statistics, or a combination of statistics, fed with data from a range of sources including surveys and administrative reports.

However, not everyone agrees on the definitions, on what they mean, and how they can support public policy. This poses a problem for policymakers, as comparisons are key to the design, roll out and assessment of policies. So what are international organisations doing to reconcile approaches?

Among others, the OECD and World Bank are building an Innovation Policy Platform (IPP) to provide information on member and observer countries; UNESCO has launched the Global Observatory of STI Policy Instruments (GO-SPIN) for its member countries; and UNU-MERIT is working with the African Union on a series of innovation policy workshops (DEIP).

Revising horizons
In terms of definitions, the OECD’s Frascati Manual — on the collection and interpretation of R&D data — is now on its sixth revision since 1963. That will be followed by the third revision of the Oslo Manual for innovation data and indicators. Meanwhile, the Ibero-American Network of Science and Technology Indicators (RICYT) is revising its own Bogota Manual on innovation. And, for its part, the European Commission launched a new Indicator of Innovation Output in 2013.

Besides the indicators that conform to the Oslo Manual, there are communities working on innovation in the public sector, as well as consumer innovation and social innovation. Researchers are also studying innovation linked to emerging technologies, user activity, and foresight studies, among many others. All of this challenges the current definitions and raises questions about how a broader view of innovation could be accommodated. Download the full paper here:

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Note to Editors: UNU-MERIT is a joint research and training institute of United Nations University and Maastricht University, based in the south of the Netherlands. Our missions are: i) to research how countries can catch up in the unequal global playing field of the 21st century, without increasing inequality and social exclusion; ii) to analyse knowledge flows at the regional and global levels, and their impact on local development, employment and productivity; and iii) to train specialists who combine a high level of academic scholarship with leadership, in order to strengthen democratic governance in domestic and international organisations. For more details:

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Innovation Science Technology Indicators OECD EU Policy UNESCO Business & Finance Government
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Tracking International Innovation: New Research Paper