Study Helps Define Innovators and R&D Performers
A pilot study surveying 1,000 U.S. companies found
that research and development (R&D) is performed by 84% of innovative
companies, that is, companies that reported creating a new or technologically
changed product or process between 1990 and 1992.
The survey, run jointly by NSF's Science Resources Studies Division
and the U.S. Bureau of the Census, was part of an international effort
to understand the process and characteristics of industrial innovation.
"Each of the participating countries selected firms from all the manufacturing
industries for the study, but here in the United States we added firms
from an important service-sector industry, the U.S. computer software
industry," says Science Resources Analyst Larry Rausch.
Rausch, the author of the recent data brief describing the study,
pointed out that this was not a typical SRS survey. "This was truly
a pilot study and its primary purpose was to test the survey's questions
and data collection procedures. But we also tried to design the study
so that it might generate some national-level data estimates of innovation
activities by U.S. firms."
In the end the survey accomplished both goals. New data describing
U.S. industrial innovation was produced and the study identified survey
questions that "worked well" and found others that proved difficult
for U.S. firms to answer. Rausch noted that "each of the participating
countries also encountered some problems in their survey."
Highlighting the survey's important findings, the data brief reports
that one-third of U.S. manufacturing, software, or telecommunications
companies were innovators, either introducing a new product or process
during 1990-92 period, or having plans to introduce a new product in
1993-95. "This one-third figure is an estimated national average for
the United States," Rausch writes.
The analysts then compared individual industries with this average
to discover which industries have the most innovators. The leaders
- Computer hardware companies (84% innovators)
- Precision instruments and equipment (69%)
- Pharmaceuticals (69%)
- Chemicals (68%)
The survey found that innovative companies are more likely to export
than are non-innovative firms.
Finally, Rausch and his colleagues used the survey to identify characteristics
of an innovative firm, asking, for example, where U.S. innovators get
information that leads to the development of new products. The three
most popular answers were: internal sources, clients and customers,
For a copy of this data brief, call SRS at (703) 292-8774, or send an e-mail