Innovation in Science, Technology and Industry

OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2012

Short-term shocks – linked to the economic crisis – and long-term shocks – environmental, demographic and societal – have put OECD economies before unprecedented challenges. Under extremely stringent budgetary constraints, governments are mobilising all policy domains to design appropriate responses for reaching strong and sustainable growth. They must seize the opportunities offered by the Internet and global markets, as well as mobilise the main assets of their countries – human capital, knowledge capital, and creativity. In this agenda, innovation policies are given a pivotal role, which they can fulfill only if they adapt to this new context: they need relevance, coherence and inclusiveness in order to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.

Innovation in times of crisis

The economic crisis which started in 2008 has had a significant impact on science, technology, innovation (STI) domains and policies. It has accelerated a number of trends and magnified certain challenges, most of which had already appeared prior to 2008. A reexamination of STI policies has therefore become more urgent. In this new environment some countries have adapted or have begun to adapt, while others have found it difficult to evolve. As a result, the gap between countries that grow and innovate and those that do not has been widening.

The global economic crisis immediately had a strong negative impact on innovation worldwide (Figure 1). Total OECD-area business expenditure on research and development (R&D) declined by a record 4.5% in 2009; it declined across all major OECD R&D spenders except Korea and France. In 2010 the recovery that occurred in some countries did not always imply a return to pre-2009 R&D levels. This pattern, a dip followed by partial recovery, is confirmed by indicators such as patents and trademarks. Among the countries most active in innovation, there is a striking contrast between Sweden and Finland, which have experienced a drop in terms of R&D and patents, and Korea, which has continued its fast, steady expansion.

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