Commerce Department Forms Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation

By David Bruggeman
December 21, 2006

One last item before the end of the year.

On December 6th, the Secretary of Commerce named the 15 members of the Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy Advisory Committee. A mix of business and academic leaders, the Committee will “study metrics on effectiveness of innovation in various businesses and sectors, and work to identify which data can be used to develop a broader measure of innovation’s impact on the economy.” Part of the Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration, the Committee will hold its first meeting in late February. Committee members that may be familiar to regular readers include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson, and IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano.

The desired goal for this committee, according to its Supplemental Information file is “new or improved measures of innovation in the economy that will help explain how innovation occurs in different sectors of the economy, how it is diffused across the economy and how it impacts economic growth and productivity.” Please note the emphasis on economic growth, which is understandable for the Department of Commerce. The committee does represent a mix of so-called ‘old economy’ and ‘new economy’ firms, but the academic perspectives are limited to business and economics. That’s understandable for a Department of Commerce group, but there are other things involved with innovation that perhaps aren’t effectively measured at the moment, and won’t be by a group focused on economic growth. For example, concerns of the workforce where innovation is concerned (job displacement, offshoring, retraining, etc.) may not be a high priority for this group. Similarly, some of the data in the Innovation Task Force’s recent Benchmarks report regarding R &D information may also be off their radar.