Innovation—whether in the form of new products such as the iPad, new ways of incorporating process technologies such as bar coding, or new management practices—is critical to economic growth. This is particularly true in mature economies such as the United States and Europe, where pressing fiscal and demographic challenges preclude many other avenues to growth. Despite the critical nature of innovation, much remains unclear as to how nations, firms, and academic bodies can encourage this activity. While impressive strides have been made in understanding the economics of innovation over the past few decades, much about this activity remains uncertain or even mysterious. This volume simultaneously provides general building blocks for understanding the innovation process and reflects the issues of its day. It is based on the proceedings of the National Bureau of Economic Research 50th Anniversary Conference in honor of the influential 1962 volume, The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, edited by Richard Nelson. The volume seeks to sponsor new theoretical and empirical contributions on fundamental questions in the economics of innovation and technological change. An explosion of empirical and theoretical research in the economics of technological change, as well as contemporary policy challenges, suggest an opportunity for reevaluation of the traditional innovation policy framework.
Keywords: innovation, economic growth, mature economies, firms