Over the years, there have been attempts to measure innovation through proxy measures such as R&D
performance and patenting. However, such proxies are just that, and they have some weaknesses. Not
all firms that perform R&D or patent actually innovate. The propensity to conduct R&D is related to the
size of the firm; smaller firms may innovate, but they may not necessarily have the resources to perform
R&D. The same could be said of patenting, and the activity of patenting is also industry dependent.
Some industries patent more than others (Scherer, 2005).
In the last 20 years, actual surveys of the activity of innovation have emerged, for example, the Community
Innovation Survey (CIS) in the European Union,10 which has been adopted by the Human Sciences
Research Council in South Africa (Blankley and Moses, 2009) and by most of the participants in the
surveys reported on in this chapter. In Europe, the results of the Community Innovation Surveys are
compiled by Eurostat for use by the policy and research communities and the public. The results are
available in print form (Eurostat, 2010) and electronically through the European Innovation Scoreboard
(EIS) and the Innobarometer (Pro Inno Europe, 2010).
Not all survey questions work in all countries or in all industry sectors in any one country. The ideal
situation for an initiative such as that of the NEPAD OST would be to have a set of core questions that
have been shown to work in most countries and then to invite countries to add questions of specific
interest to them. For example, a country with a large agricultural sector might wish to probe more deeply
the activity of innovation in that sector, while still being able to report on the results of the core questions
to support international comparisons.
Source: Africa Innovation Outlook 2010