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Innovation Surveys

European and Canadian Surveys

In most industrial countries, governments and university-based researchers are administering surveys to collect a range of information on the nature and determinants of innovation processes and the performance of firms. In the European Union, a common survey instrument, the Community Innovation Survey (CIS), based on the so-called Oslo Manual, was administered in 1993. A second survey, CIS 2, is in preparation.

Statistics Canada, a pioneer agency in innovation surveys, has conducted a range of surveys focused on particular issues such as the relationship between technology use and workplace practices and the financial structure of knowledge-based firms, rather than undertaking a single all-purpose innovation survey. John Baldwin explained that the Statistics Canada approach was developed in response to a need for information on the importance of R&D to national economic growth. This remark led to a series of related questions about the importance of the types of innovations occurring, their national sources, and their effects on the Canadian economy. With data on knowledge sources, Statistics Canada has been able to develop profiles identifying characteristics of innovative firms and highlighting such characteristics as the tendency to invest heavily in human skill development. The profiles also distinguish the innovation systems of small and large firms. Unlike U.S. federal government agencies, Statistics Canada has the advantage of being able to link R&D and performance data via corporate tax records.



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--> 7 Innovation Surveys European and Canadian Surveys In most industrial countries, governments and university-based researchers are administering surveys to collect a range of information on the nature and determinants of innovation processes and the performance of firms. In the European Union, a common survey instrument, the Community Innovation Survey (CIS), based on the so-called Oslo Manual, was administered in 1993. A second survey, CIS 2, is in preparation. Statistics Canada, a pioneer agency in innovation surveys, has conducted a range of surveys focused on particular issues such as the relationship between technology use and workplace practices and the financial structure of knowledge-based firms, rather than undertaking a single all-purpose innovation survey. John Baldwin explained that the Statistics Canada approach was developed in response to a need for information on the importance of R&D to national economic growth. This remark led to a series of related questions about the importance of the types of innovations occurring, their national sources, and their effects on the Canadian economy. With data on knowledge sources, Statistics Canada has been able to develop profiles identifying characteristics of innovative firms and highlighting such characteristics as the tendency to invest heavily in human skill development. The profiles also distinguish the innovation systems of small and large firms. Unlike U.S. federal government agencies, Statistics Canada has the advantage of being able to link R&D and performance data via corporate tax records.

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--> U.S. Surveys In 1994 the NSF conducted a pilot innovation survey of manufacturing firms to explore the value of such an effort. The Manufacturer's Innovation Survey, administered by the Census Bureau for NSF, asked questions on firm innovations, sources of information, objectives of innovation, acquisition and transfer of technology, and R&D activity. The NSF is considering what steps, if any, to take beyond this experimental effort. A privately conducted survey, administered in 1994 by a Carnegie Mellon University research team headed by Wesley Cohen, collected information from manufacturing firm R&D laboratory or unit directors on the determinants of R&D activity and performance. Data were collected on such issues as firms' use and perceptions of the effectiveness of different mechanisms for protecting intellectual property in order to appropriate the returns to their innovations, sources of new technical information, interactions with competitors, and the speed at which new products or processes are imitated. Because this survey builds on a 1987 survey conducted at Yale by Richard Levin, Alvin Klevorick, Richard Nelson, and Sidney Winter, which also examined appropriability conditions in the U.S. manufacturing sector, it has been called the "Yale II" project. A comparison of results yields interesting differences. For example, Cohen reported that the preferred means of protecting intellectual capital changed dramatically from 1987 to 1994, with the relative effectiveness of patents declining and that of trade secrecy increasing. Unlike the first Yale survey, the Carnegie Mellon survey instrument was designed to enable comparisons across countries as well as across and within industries. The survey has been duplicated and administered in Japan, and many of the questions have been incorporated in a European questionnaire administered by the research organization MERIT. On the basis of his experience with the Yale surveys, Cohen offered a number of suggestions for designing and administering a future U.S. innovation survey or surveys: In light of the prevalence of multiproduct firms, most data elements should be gathered at the business unit rather than at the enterprise level; a business unit reflects the firm's activities within a particular industry, which is typically defined by the four- or at least three-digit Standard Industrial Classification. Data on some variables such as R&D and sales should be collected annually. Other variables, such as those representing appropriability conditions or information flows, could be assessed much less frequently, for example, at five-year intervals. Following the Canadian model, innovation surveys should employ several questionnaires addressed to firm officials who have the most relevant knowledge.

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--> Because understanding of what drives R&D and determines R&D performance is incomplete and there is uncertainty about what questions to ask, a section of each survey should be dedicated to experimental, exploratory questions. Prospective data users, including research analysts, policy makers, and business executives, should participate in preparing the questions. Draft survey instruments should be pretested informally with prospective respondents. Designing surveys that enable cross-national comparisons is very useful but should not override the need to develop quality survey instruments using high standards.