Economic indicators and statistics form the backbone of any measurement, but when it comes to measuring innovation, the schools of thoughts are divided: What are the most relevant and reliable indicators and metrics to assess the development of a specific technology not only within its wide range of applications, but also against another technology? The younger the technology in question, the more difficult it is to find the right indicators for the measurement of its innovative power at a time when such measurement is most needed, in order to evaluate the efficiency of policy making regarding this technology.
The measurement of the innovative power of a General Purpose Technology (GPT), like nanotechnology, can benefit from adoption of commonly accepted economic indicators, such as intellectual property creation, creation of enterprises, manufacture of value-added products and supply of relevant services., but new indicators need to be proposed, in order to specifically grasp the disruptive and revolutionary power of the GLP.
This study aims to stress-test the use of traditional indicators for the measurement of nanotechnology innovation, in order to specifically allow for comparison with other technological developments and between economic markets, while gaining insight into the shortcomings of these traditional indicators and aiming to identify needs for better suited future indicators to be created.
In 2008 the OECD WPN identified and evaluated a set of nanotechnology-relevant indicators in a report entitled Nanotechnology: An Overview Based on Indicators and Statistics. Four years later, the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) initiated a review and added content to the findings of the initial OECD WPN report. Its revised report afforded an updated analysis of many indicators evaluated in the WPN report. It had a greater focus on specific countries (e.g. Brazil) and selected topics (e.g. technological advantages). The report illustrates the extent to which economic and societal changes across the world affect developments in nanotechnologies and highlights national specialisations and compatibilities.
The creation of growth through innovation and technological development is at the heart of most governmental policies. Nanotechnology has been viewed by many national and international stakeholders as a rapidly growing area able to affect and improve technologies across different sectors. Just like other areas of innovation, the progress of nanotechnologies is measured via the use of scientific, technological and socio-economic indicators.
There are a number of commonly accepted socio-economic indicators related to intellectual property creation, the number of spin-outs and enterprises created, the manufacturing of value-added products and the supply of relevant services. New indicators are constantly being proposed, but it is the work on existing indicators that constitutes the focus of this report. In some cases, the comparison of commonly established indicators such as investment in national research and development, creation of companies, number of academic publications and filing of patents for countries or larger regions, gives a good understanding of trends at national and global scales.
The last OECD report on academic and private sector innovation indicators in nanotechnologies was published in 2009. Since then changes in the economic situation of many countries have had a major effect on research, development and commercialisation. Several European countries and countries in other regions have introduced strict austerity measures, including reductions in funding for research and changes to the support structure for commercialisation. Private investment levels have also been affected. The time is ripe, therefore, for an update and review of all input and output indicators in the field.