Abstract: Data flows at the local level, public and administrative records, geospatial data, social media, surveys, as well as other federal, state, and local databases, are ubiquitous in our everyday life. Combining unprecedented amounts of data makes possible unexpected discoveries, innovations, and advancements in our quality of life. As with high-powered telescopes peering into the universe, these emerging data sources may not be exposing things that are new, but they are exposing things that we have not been able to see before, including innovation.
Innovation is described as a black box and is often computed as the residual in models designed to estimate economic growth. Because of the link to growth, policymakers and researchers are interested in understanding and supporting activities that lead to innovation. Most definitions of innovation focus on the creation of new and improved products, processes, and business mechanisms (marketing, design, and organizational). Innovation has been measured through pathways and activities (primarily STEM education and workforce), outputs (products, processes, business innovation), and outcomes (economic growth and societal benefits). Innovation is typically captured and measured using surveys, patent analysis, case studies, and peer reviews and is focused on the business sector.
The traditional approaches to measuring innovation may leave many types of innovation uncaptured because they are not commercialized and often represent intangible assets that are hard to put a price on, such as knowledge, core competencies, and business processes. Today, there are many examples of innovative outputs that are not sold in the market place, such as open source software, online education, household-sector innovation (also called free innovation), and social innovation (e.g., food delivery to poor rural children during the summer).
There are many non-survey data sources in the business and nonbusiness sectors that may provide signals that can lead to new measures of innovation. Through a process of data discovery, acquisition, statistical data integration, and visualization we use non-survey data sources such as websites, announcement databases, social media, press releases, reports, journals, financial records, and business filings, to capture innovation and develop new measures. Our focus is to assess the quality of the data with the goal to develop innovation measures that are scalable and repeatable.
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