The need to customise innovation indicators in developing countries

Michiko Iizuka & Hugo Hollanders


Innovation is becoming more and more important as a driver of economic growth. In developed countries, a diverse set of innovation indicators has been developed to monitor innovation performance and the impact of innovation policies. Developing countries have been late to jump on this bandwagon and are now faced with a set of well-established innovation indicators that might not be that well suited to measure innovation in their economies.

Existing innovation indicators can be broadly classified into three different types: Science & Technology (S&T) indicators, Innovation survey indicators, and Composite innovation indicators combining different indicators, including S&T and Innovation survey data, into one indicator. All of these have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, and they score above or below average on a wide range of attributes considered to be favourable, if not downright necessary, for innovation indicators.

This paper argues that, for innovation indicators, and for innovation survey indicators in particular, data collection has to be customised to the different socio-economic structures of developing countries. For this, the definition of innovation has to become more inclusive by recognising the multitude of innovation actors and processes in developing countries. Developing countries also need to build competence regarding innovation indicators, not only within their statistical systems but also among their policy makers.

JEL Classification: O38, O32, O29, P47

Keywords: innovation, indicators, developing countries, policy use