This report focuses on the creation of inventions, knowledge transfer, and innovation through the introduction of new and improved goods and services. This report’s indicators address these topics with data from a variety of sources that cover technology areas, industries, and product markets. ICT and related industries, as well as health-related technologies, are prominent across these indicators. On balance, the indicators show the importance of research, output, invention, and innovation in the digital economy, and the strong role of engineering activities.
Intellectual property registration provides a useful set of indicators of invention. Although this activity was once concentrated in upper-income countries, middle-income countries are increasingly participating in intellectual property registration. This results in both collaboration opportunities and competition challenges. The global supply chain is rooted in international S&E capacity, while at the same time growing interconnectedness allows security risks to have widespread impacts. For the digital economy, intellectual property and intangibles play a prominent role. Intellectual property indicators, such as patenting and trademarks, show where new products and processes are emerging. Patent-intensive industries spend higher proportions of their sales on R&D, and both electrical and mechanical engineering-related patents made up about half of all patents granted by the USPTO in 2017. Universities and federal labs transfer knowledge and technology through research collaborations, technology licensing, and support for startups. One in six U.S. firms (with five or more employees) reports having introduced a product or process innovation in recent years. Health-related industries and the digital economy have an outsized impact on innovation rates across the economy, with ICT-producing industries reporting many of the highest rates of innovation. Many of these same industries perform high levels of R&D and compete globally.