Matthias Breuer, Christian Leuz, Steven Vanhaverbeke, 08 April 2021

Firms often argue that disclosure and reporting regulations such as the EU Accounting Directive require them to reveal proprietary information, which discourages innovation. This column explores the effects of disclosure requirements on corporate innovation in the EU, and finds that forcing firms to publicly disclose their financial statements does indeed discourage innovative activities. At the industry level, positive information spillovers to competitors, suppliers, and customers appear insufficient to compensate for the negative direct effect on innovation. Indeed, the spillovers seem to concentrate innovation within a few large firms in a given industry.

Robin Döttling, Lev Ratnovski, 19 March 2021

Technological progress increases the importance of corporate intangible assets such as research and development knowledge, organisational structure, and brand equity. Using US data covering 1990 to 2017, this column shows that the stock prices and investment of firms with more intangible assets respond less to monetary policy shocks. Similarly, intangible investment responds less to monetary policy compared to tangible investment. The key channel explaining these effects is a weaker credit channel of monetary policy, as firms with intangible assets use less debt.

Lauren Cohen, Umit Gurun, Danielle Li, 14 March 2021

Covid-19 has revealed the importance of quick, efficient, but safe medical innovation. The development of various vaccines, as well as a range of treatments, have been tech tools in the fight against the public health and economic crises. This column explores the impact of informal deadlines within the drugs market, arguing that such regulatory pressures can end up distorting product safety and marketability. The findings highlight the need for well-designed regulatory systems which allow medical innovators to move swiftly but safely during the next health shock.

Mike Andrews, Alexander Whalley, 20 February 2021

We have witnessed significant changes in economic geography over the last years. However, little is known about the spatial concentration of innovation over time. This column uses a novel dataset containing the location of all US patents between 1836 to 2016 to analyse the geography of innovation over time. It finds that while concentration was as high as it is today in the late 1860s, it has seen a substantial decline thereafter, remaining at significantly lower levels for the larger part of the 20th century. It further finds substantial turnover in the identities of top inventing places.

Markus Nagler, Monika Schnitzer, Martin Watzinger, 08 February 2021

The secular decline in productivity growth is blamed by some on the slow diffusion of new general purpose technologies, so it is important to understand what slows down this diffusion and how it can be speeded up. This column presents evidence from the diffusion of the transistor, one of the most important general purpose technologies of our time. It shows that patents on general purpose technologies are likely to cause considerably more harm than patents on other technologies unless a standardised licensing regime is put in place. Not only do they block more follow-on innovation, but in particular they block valuable follow-on innovation arising from cross-technology spillovers. 

Philippe Aghion, Antonin Bergeaud, John Van Reenen, 01 February 2021

While there is suggestive evidence that regulations may have a stifling effect on innovation, there is as yet no rigorous economic framework to quantify the magnitude of such regulatory effects on innovation and the aggregate economy. This column proposes such a framework tests its implications on data from France. As the framework predicts, regulations do indeed hamper innovation, but the negative effects concern only incremental innovations and are absent for radical innovations.  Overall, regulations are estimated to reduce aggregate innovations by 5%. 

Pierre Dubois, Yassine Lefouili, Stephane Straub, 30 January 2021

Patients in the developing world often face prices for essential medicines far in excess of international reference levels, even if those drugs have lost patent protection. This column presents evidence from seven low- and middle-income countries with diverse drug procurement systems to assess the effect of centralised procurement on drug prices. The results of the study highlight that centralised procurement of drugs by the public sector leads to lower prices, but that the induced price reduction is smaller when the supply side is more concentrated.

Florin Maican, Matilda Orth, Mark Roberts, Van Anh Vuong, 26 January 2021

Firms’ incentives to undertake innovation investments can be affected by their activities in domestic and international markets. This column uses a structural framework to estimate the returns to innovation investments and analyse the impact of trade on those returns. It shows that a firm’s R&D investments raise its future productivity in both domestic and export markets, with a larger impact in the export market. Furthermore, it shows that public efforts to stimulate innovation investments can be offset by trade restrictions limiting access to world markets. These findings are important for policymakers to recognise when fostering innovation. 

Debora Revoltella, Pedro J. F. de Lima, 21 December 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic poses severe risks for Europe’s economy, but it also presents opportunities. The sharp short-term shock will be followed by large structural changes to the global economy in the long term. This column sheds light on the challenges ahead using data from the European Investment Bank Investment Survey. Large sectors of Europe’s economy, particularly SMEs, need to innovate and adopt digital technologies to avoid falling behind. Policy support needs to evolve from liquidity provision to a more targeted push for structural transformation. 

Molly Lesher, 13 October 2020

Many new innovations do not fit neatly into the traditional definitions of markets as recognised by existing regulatory bodies. One way policymakers can define new regulatory frontiers for such technologies is to implement ‘sandboxes’ – frameworks that provide participant companies with some regulatory flexibility while insulating the impact on consumers. This column argues that while sandboxes can bring benefits, they are not always the best approach and policy experimentation can – and should – take many forms.

Ufuk Akcigit, Jeremy Pearce, Marta Prato, 10 October 2020

For economies to innovate and grow past the COVID-19 crisis, policymakers have to understand the implications of various policies for innovation and economic growth, and take into account how people sort into professions and how potential scientists and innovators respond to policy. This column presents a comprehensive framework to study theoretically and empirically the role of education and R&D policies for boosting innovation and economic growth. It finds that policy tools in both education and R&D are complementary in developing talent, which is the key ingredient to innovation. The best mix of policies depends on how unequal society is and how urgently innovation is needed.

Ufuk Akcigit, Sina T. Ates, Josh Lerner, Richard Townsend, Yulia Zhestkova, 24 September 2020

The US military community has highlighted the potential security threat posed by foreign venture investments in Silicon Valley, particularly from Chinese stakeholders. This column presents a theoretical and empirical analysis of the relationship between venture capital and national security, focusing on the ability of overseas firms to gain a domestic technological advantage through investing in the US tech sector. The growing importance of this the technology sector, as well as the national security issues at stake, mean that understanding the correlations is a vital avenue of future research.

Kyriakos Drivas, 21 September 2020

European trademark applications are an indicator of business confidence. While they have not dropped during the first wave of Covid-19 in aggregate, some countries and types of business are more affected than others. The column uses data on applications to explore the detail, showing applications by Chinese firms, new firms, and firms in certain product sectors have risen. Services firms have made fewer applications. 

Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 18 August 2020

There is much concern that the Covid-19 crisis may be particularly tough for relatively young firms to survive. Given that much innovation is attributed to young firms, this could then harm overall productivity. This column uses the dynamics of various firms’ market shares in order to infer their growth contributions. Compared to studies focusing on patents and R&D spending, the authors find a much bigger role for new and young firms in terms of accounting for productivity growth. Protecting young firms is therefore essential to mitigating the productivity damage of Covid-19.

Eiichi Tomiura, Banri Ito, Byeongwoo Kang, 12 August 2020

Cross-border data flows are increasingly critical for modern firms, and the regulation of data poses a distinctly novel challenge for policymakers in the 21st century. This column presents survey data from Japan, investigating exactly which type of firm are most likely to be affected by regulations surrounding the international exchange of data. The results of the study suggest that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and 3D printers are usually adopted by the most productive and innovative firms, and that hampering these firms with regulation may create harmful effects for the wider economy.

Isaiah Hull, 23 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed pressure on central banks and other public institutions to monitor the economy at a higher frequency than usual. However, much of the data and expertise needed to perform such monitoring is concentrated in the private sector and academia. This column describes the effort made by the Swedish Riksbank to alleviate this bottleneck by opening up a collaborative public channel through which academics and the private sector can directly contribute to the research in real time.

Arnoud Boot, Peter Hoffmann, Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, 21 July 2020

Technological change in the financial industry is accelerating. Recent developments include new innovations and improvements on past trends. This column distinguishes between the information and communication channels of financial innovation and analyses their implications for financial intermediation. It suggests that innovations in these two dimensions may lead to big changes in the traditional bank business model. New policy priorities should focus on accurately assessing the operational risks and ensuring the robustness of these technologies.

Pietro Santoleri, Andrea Mina, 19 July 2020

Direct public support for business R&D is common practice in many countries, but evidence on its causal effects has been mixed. This column exploits discontinuity in the assignment mechanism of the first large-scale European R&D grant programme to assess the impact of the policy. The results indicate that direct grants have positive and sizable effects on a wide range of firm-level outcomes suggesting that R&D grants are an effective policy tool. 

Philippe Aghion, Helene Maghin, André Sapir, 25 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the structural dichotomy between the models of capitalism operating in Europe and the US; the former offers better protection for its citizens while the latter shows greater economic dynamism. This column argues that for all the harm COVID-19 has caused, the crisis has also provided an opening to rethink the versions of capitalism practised on both sides of the Atlantic. Some degree of convergence towards a better model is desirable, the authors suggest, and perhaps even possible.

Sylvain Leduc, Zheng Liu, 14 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the future of work. The pandemic may become recurrent and necessitate repeated adoptions of social distancing measures, creating substantial uncertainty about worker productivity. This column presents a theoretical framework suggesting that such job uncertainty reduces aggregate demand, and dampens business investment in general. However, automation may provide one way for businesses to cope with the uncertainty about worker productivity. It appears that pandemic-induced job uncertainty could stimulate automation investment, despite declines in aggregate demand.

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