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Learning from 20 Years of Research on Innovation Economics


  • Bruno Van Pottelsberghe


This introductory chapter summarizes 20 years of research activities, which started at Universit´e libre de Bruxelles (ULB) with a four-year scholarship in 1992. These years are tainted by a focus on empirical research, by intensive local and international collaborations, and by a series of fieldexperiences which became key sources of inspiration and gradually improved the contextualization of the research projects I was involved with. The broad research contributions I have been involved with are twofold: I started with the effectiveness of science and technology policies, and then focused on the effectiveness of patent systems. Effectiveness has two meanings. The first one is related to the systematic search for improvement, the constant questioning of status quo, of existing policies, with the identification of their strengths and weaknesses. The second meaning of effectiveness is related to the improvement of data and metrics needed to properly analyze policy tools, and the search for more appropriate indicators. The papers presented in this book all aim at improving metrics and using new data and indicators in order to contribute to improve our knowledge on whether and how policy tools work. The effectiveness of science and technology policies is assessed through their impact on research and development (R&D) efforts and on growthprospects. We have investigated to what extent and under which circumstances R&D subsidies and R&D tax credits stimulate private R&D and contribute to productivity growth. The effectiveness of patent systems is assessed through the lenses of their costs, their operational design, theirtransparency and the stringency of the examination processes. The outcome of these 20 years of research includes about 60 publications in international peer reviewed scientific journals and one co-authored book published by Oxford University Press. Each of these publications was a small challenge, at least the way I perceived it. We had to reach a final version, present it at conferences, submit it for publication, cope with sometimes tough referees, dive again into the paper more than a year later and implement the required changes, and re-submit it with a polite letter to the referees and the editor. The main common denominator I would chose to summarize my research experience is ‘mobility’, defined in its broadest sense: mobility or flexibility with respect to career expectations, with respect to internationalization, with respect to institutional experience, and with respect to collaborations. The sources of inspiration of most papers were nearly systematically drawn from my professional experience. For instance, the priority issues that had to be tackled by the Research Institute of the Ministry of External Trade and Industry (METI) when I was visiting researcher, the benchmarking exercises requested by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) task forces when I was full-time consultant in Paris, and several debates which took place at the board of the European Patent Office when I was its Chief Economist had a direct influence on the research projects I later worked on.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno Van Pottelsberghe, 2020. "Learning from 20 Years of Research on Innovation Economics," Working Papers TIMES² 2020-038, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:ict:wpaper:2013/309790

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    Cited by:

    1. Elise Petit & Bruno van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie & Lluis Gimeno-Fabra, 2022. "Global patent systems: Revisiting the national bias hypothesis," Journal of International Business Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 5(1), pages 56-67, March.
    2. Elise Petit & Bruno Van Pottelsberghe & Lluís Gimeno Fabra, 2021. "Are Patent Offices Substitutes?," Working Papers ECARES 2021-18, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.


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