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The importance of innovative capacity


The concept of innovative capacity provides a way to understand and measure fundamental aspects of technocapitalism. Innovative capacity can be used at the level of activities, organizations and geographical areas. It can also be used to understand the dynamics of technocapitalism or its major components.


Why is innovative capacity important to know?


Innovative capacity provides, first, a precise way to understand and measure invention and innovative potential. Invention and innovation are fundamental to our understanding of technocapitalism. They are directly related to all of the phenomena and effects considered in this website.


It is important to be able to measure as many aspects of invention and innovation as possible, to have more perspective on how technocapitalism came about, the roles of invention and innovation in it, and their dynamics. Many of the existing tools in the social sciences are inadequate for this purpose. Some of those tools were specifically created to measure aspects of industrial capitalism, and they are not well suited for understanding or measuring the phenomena of technocapitalism.


Second, innovative capacity provides a multidimensional way to measure invention and innovative potential. Innovative capacity is not tied to any sector, activity or industry. It can therefore be used to measure invention and innovative potential in any activity where they are thought to be important. It can also be used to compare the performance of various activities with one another.


Innovative capacity can be used to measure invention and innovative potential at the level of organizations. Any organization for which invention and innovation is important can be analyzed. Comparisons between organizations can also be performed. This is particularly interesting in the case of experimentalist organizations, given their overarching emphasis on research, and their need to sustain continuous invention and innovation. Comparisons between experimentalist organizations or firms in any given sector could, for example, provide insights on their importance in their respective fields,

and give an indication of benchmark performances.


Measuring the geographical dimensions of invention and innovation is another possible use of innovative capacity. It can be applied to nations, regions, urban areas or localities. Any geographical area that is a source of invention and innovation can be analyzed through the innovative capacity framework. Innovative capacity can also be used to make comparisons between geographical areas, to determine the dynamics of their technological leadership and performance.


Innovative capacity can be used to measure the temporal dynamics of invention and innovative potential for any period of time. This is particularly important for understanding the process of accumulation of inventions and its dynamics. The dynamics of invention and innovation can therefore be analyzed for activities, sectors, industries, organizations and geographical areas.


Third, innovative capacity can be used as a diagnostic tool, to gauge changes in invention and innovative potential. Measuring innovative capacity on a continuous basis over regular periods of time can provide a comparative indicator of how sectors, industries, organizations and geographical areas fare as sources of new technology.


There are many economic and social indicators that are regularly compiled and published online, in the press, in statistical abstracts and journals. Incomes, prices, interest rates, trade balances, school enrollments are but a few examples. Innovative capacity could be provided regularly as an indicator of technological performance and potential, in much the same way as the indicators mentioned before.


Given the importance of technology for economic and social advancement, this would seem to be an easily achieved and cost effective way to keep the public informed about changes in the sourcing of invention and innovation on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. It could also become a valuable source of data for research and analysis. Changes in innovative capacity can serve as early indicators of advance or decline in the technological leadership of a sector, nation or geographical area. Awareness of those changes can lead to early action about the kind of economic and social pathologies that befall declining areas and sectors.


At the level of organizations, innovative capacity can also be used for diagnostic purposes. It can, for example, be computed and compared for a group of organizations within a sector, to see how technological leadership may be shifting between organizations. Organizations may thus be able to learn early on when their innovative capacity is slipping. Similarly, it may be possible to identify the up and coming leaders of a sector by looking for organizations with rising innovative capacity.

Fourth, innovative capacity can provide information on the trajectory and dynamics of the accumulation of inventions. From another discussion in this website, it may be remembered that the accumulation of inventions was one of the most important macro phenomena supporting the rise of technocapitalism. Understanding and keeping track of the process of accumulation should be of interest for those who want to study the cycles of accumulation underlying technocapitalism.


Accumulation works at various levels. It can, for example, have substantial disparities between sectors, based on their research intensity, the markets they target, and their technological leadership. It can also have substantial disparities between geographical areas, as old sources of technology decline and others take their place. Innovative capacity can help chart the process and sources of accumulation by providing precise data on these changes at the level of sectors, geographical areas and organizations.


Fifth, innovative capacity is often obtained through networks. Understanding and measuring the level of networked innovative capacity is particularly important for experimental firms. Networks increase the innovative capacity of experimental firms by helping them secure advantages that they would not be able to obtain on their own.


Measuring the contribution of those advantages to innovative capacity can help us understand the value of networks. It is unclear, for example, how much of their creativity firms deploy when they participate in networks. Not all members of a network may contribute equally, and some may see their innovative capacity enhanced greatly while others benefit much less. These situations and outcomes, which are part of the relations of influence within a network, can affect how much innovative capacity is derived through network collaboration, and who benefits most from it.


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Copyright Luis Suarez-Villa