Innovations: Drivers and Barriers to Development

The latest issue of ‘Foresight and STI Governance’ covers a variety of methodological aspects of innovative activity and its features in particular areas.

Robotics technology and the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence are breakthrough innovations with significant growth prospects. They have the potential to disrupt existing socio-economic facets of everyday life. Andrew Keisner, Julio Raffo and Sacha Wunsch-Vincent analyse current developments in innovation in robotics in the paper ‘Robotics: Breakthrough Technologies, Innovation, Intellectual Property’. The robotics innovation ecosystem builds on cooperative networks of actors, including individuals, research institutions, and firms. Governments play a significant role in supporting robotics innovation through funding, military demand, and national robotics strategies. Robotics competitions and prizes provide for an important incentive to innovation. Patents are used to exclude third parties to secure freedom of operation, license technologies, and avoid litigation. The countries with the highest number of patent claims are Japan, China, South Korea, and the US. Automotive and electronics companies are still the largest patent filers, but medical technologies and the Internet are emerging as new actors in the field. The authors note that secrecy is often used as a tool to appropriate innovation. Copyright protection is relevant to robotics also, mainly for its role in protecting software. Finally, open-source robotics platforms are increasingly used in the early stages of the innovation process as they allow new actors in the robotics field to optimize their initial spending on innovation.

The article ‘Determinants of Regional Innovation in Russia: Are People or Capital More Important?’ by Stepan Zemtsov, Alexander Muradov, Imogen Wade and Vera Barinova states that there is a growing need to analyse the factors influencing regional innovation in the current climate of sanctions between Russia and Western countries and limitations on international technology transfer. The study shows that the quality of human capital, a product of the number of economically active urban citizens with a higher education (the so-called creative class) has the greatest influence on the number of potentially commercializable patents. Other significant factors were buying equipment, which indicates a high rate of wear and tear of Russian machinery, and spending on basic research.

Konstantin Fursov, Yana Roshina and Oksana Balmush analyse the factors that influence publication activity of Russian researchers in the paper ‘Determinants of Research Productivity: An Individual-level Lens’. Data for the analysis was derived from a survey on the labour market for highly qualified R&D personnel conducted in 2010 by the HSE, within the framework of the OECD / UNESCO Institute for Statistics / Eurostat international project on Careers of Doctorate Holders (CDH). With the use of regression analysis, the authors assessed the effects of scientific capital, international cooperation, employment, and socio-demographic characteristics of researchers on their productivity, which is measured through their total publication output as well as through the number of papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. The study showed that the quality of scientific capital, measured through diversity of research experience, has a stronger impact on research productivity, rather than the age or other socio-demographic characteristics of doctorate holders. It was also demonstrated that direct economic stimuli and actual research productivity of researchers are weakly correlated. Consequently, the authors identified that a potentially winning strategy for universities and research institutions that want to improve their performance indicators would be to provide younger scholars with wider opportunities for professional growth, including intense global cooperation in the professional community.

The article ‘Social and Business Innovations: Are Common Measurement Approaches Possible?’ by Attila Havas reviews various approaches to measuring business innovation, in particular those that entail social innovations, and offers several methodological and policy conclusions.

First, Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS) indicators, in principle, could be useful in settings where the dominant mode of innovation is based on R&D activities. In practice, however, both R&D and non-R&D-based modes of innovation are important. IUS, therefore, only provides a partial picture. Social innovations can certainly rely on R&D-based technological innovations; however, their essence, however, tends to be essentially organizational, managerial, and behavioural modifications. The IUS indicators do not capture these types of changes. Analysts and policy makers need to be aware of the differences between measuring social innovation activities (or efforts); the framework for social innovations (pre-requisites, available inputs, skills, norms, values, behavioural patterns, etc.); and the economic, societal, and environmental impacts of social innovations.

Alexandra Moskovskaya analyses the collective mechanisms of the development of knowledge as a joint activity in working teams in the paper ‘Electronic ‘Knowledge Factories’ versus Micro-environment of Innovation: Who Will Win?’ The aim of the paper is to study the possibilities of electronic network platforms to use the collective nature of knowledge in the interests of further developing knowledge and innovation through online communication of professionals.

The author argues that electronic networking platforms contribute to the fragmentation of knowledge representation of participants, eluding a common sense and purpose. Thus, such platforms blur the boundary between knowledge and information. The article indicates that the desire to increase the effectiveness of collective creativity via online communication risks not developing competencies, discretion, and exploration of others’ experiences. Instead, this desire leads to strengthening external control and separation of functions into primary routine operations when an individual participant is valued not for his/ her knowledge and previous experience, but for his/ her communicative capabilities. The produced effect is akin to the industrial revolution of the machine era; when this effect is widespread, there are risks that knowledge workers will be turned into easily replaceable, piecemeal workers. To avoid this, electronic platforms should either learn to recreate the conditions of offline micro-environments of innovation, or not claim to fulfill the role of knowledge production.

In Moscow, this issue of ‘Foresight’ can be purchased at BukVyshka (HSE’s bookstore), which is located at 20 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa. In Perm, it can be found at the Piotrovsky store (51A Ulitsa Lunacharsky). Paper and electronic versions of the magazine are also distributed through subscription.

'Foresight' editorial board