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Interpreting Innovation Data in the Business R&D and Innovation Survey


Launched in 2009, the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) was developed jointly by the National Science Foundation/Science Resources Statistics (NSF/SRS) and the U.S. Census Bureau to replace the Survey of Industrial Research and Development.

Although focusing mainly on R&D activities, the pilot BRDIS included a question on innovation—a first attempt at measuring the U.S. incidence of product and process innovation. Adapted from the European Union's Community Innovation Survey (CIS), this question was addressed to all companies operating in the United States, whether or not they performed or funded R&D.

Preliminary Findings on Innovation

Companies' reported innovation varied considerably across industries, but overall in the period 2006–08 about 9% of all companies introduced product innovations (one or more new or significantly improved good or service) and about 9% of all companies introduced process innovations (one or more new or significantly improved method for manufacturing or production; logistics, delivery, or distribution; support activities).

These findings, for companies located in the United States, are considerably lower than the reported incidence of innovation for companies responding to the CIS.

BRDIS-CIS Comparisons

Differences between BRDIS and CIS may make comparisons of the two data sets inappropriate:

  • Intent. CIS is primarily an innovation survey; BRDIS is primarily an R&D survey.
  • Survey context. CIS, in accordance with its intent, provides guidance on innovation and what is to be included; BRDIS provides no such guidance.
  • Respondent experience. CIS has been fielded many times since the 1990s, and its respondents have experience with the survey; the 2008 BRDIS pilot survey was the first time U.S.-located companies had been asked to report on their innovative activities.
  • Industry sectors and sizes of companies surveyed. CIS is sent to companies with 10 or more employees in industries considered to be innovative; BRDIS is a nationally representative sample of all companies with 5 or more employees in all industries.
  • Coverage years. Most available CIS tabulations are for the period 2004–06; BRDIS preliminary data are for the period 2006–08.
  • Non-response adjustments. Unit non-response is high for some countries administering the CIS, which can have a significant impact on overall rates of reported innovation; the preliminary 2008 BRDIS data were not adjusted for unit or item non-response.


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