While this may suggest support for a program of innovation measurement and analysis, there are still lessons being learned (Gault, 2003) that argue for a more cautious approach. These lessons deal with the period of observation (which is currently 3 years in the Oslo Manual but is clearly industry dependent) and the appropriate unit of observation (Are some questions better put at the level of the firm, or should they go to the plant or the establishment?). The entry level for the novelty of innovation in the Oslo Manual is “new to the firm,” which gives quite high rates of innovation in some industries. An additional issue has to do with the measurement of world-first and market-first innovations, which are more interesting from the competitiveness perspective. Finally, there is the question of nontechnological innovation and how that should be measured.


The need to understand the process of innovation is of critical importance to answering key questions about the source of growth of the U.S. economy. There have been several successful efforts in other countries to develop such measures, and, although lessons are still being learned, there is a growing science to support innovation measurement. The Science Resources Statistics Division (SRS) has dipped into these waters twice in the past decade, with mixed success. The division needs resources and the capacity to explore the impact of innovation on the U.S. economy. This can be done by commissioning surveys and analyzing and publishing the results, as well as by supporting academic research.

After the analytical capacity has developed in SRS and its network of experts has been established, the SRS may wish to propose, based on its findings, a more comprehensive set of measures of technological change comparable to those that now exist for research and development.

The panel recommends that resources be provided to SRS to build an internal capacity to resolve the methodological issues related to collecting innovation-related data. The panel recommends that this collection be integrated with or supplemental to the Survey of Industrial Research and Development. We also encourage SRS to work with experts in universities and public institutions who have expertise in a broad spectrum of related issues. In some cases, it may be judicious to commission case studies. In all instances, SRS is strongly encouraged to support the analysis and publication of the findings (Recommendation 4.1).

The panel recommends that SRS, within a reasonable amount of time after receiving the resources, should initiate a regular and comprehensive program of measurement and research related to innovation (Recommendation 4.2).

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