“Science and Innovation importance has grown incessantly since the XIX century, now is dominant in a number of industries”

The Summer School 2023 at the UB School of Economics will focus on Science and Innovation. Massimiliano Coda Zabetta (University of Barcelona), and Francesco Lissoni and Valerio Sterzi (University of Bordeaux) are all of them experts in these fields and will be the lecturers of our summer course, which will take place from July 10 to 14, 2023 at the University of Barcelona.

We have recently interviewed them in order to find out more about the selected topics of the Summer School about the economics of innovation, such as science, intellectual property, and knowledge spillovers.

 Why do Science and Innovation play such an important role in the growth of economies? 

Innovation is a vast phenomenon that includes all new goods and services, and the new technologies and organizational practices to produce and deliver them, that fuel economic growth in capitalistic economies. It provides profits to firms and increases in workers’ productivity, which can translate into higher real wages.

At the same time, it is a source of dynamic changes in the structure of industries, because it does not matter how well incumbent firms manage to introduce new goods and services. Innovation is a powerful mean of entry for new firms, which brings competition inside industries and/or changes the balance of power between industries. Science is one of the many sources of knowledge that fuels innovation. Its importance has grown incessantly since the XIX century and it is now dominant in a number of industries, for example, pharmaceuticals and ICTs.

One important characteristic of science is that it is by and large a public good, one whose producers cannot or wish not to appropriate entirely once diffused, no matter how extensive the use they make of patents and other forms of intellectual property. As such, it both requires public intervention to avoid its supply to be suboptimal and can have multiplicative effects on the economy, often over a very long term.

What are some of the main policy implications of research in the Economics of Science and Innovation, and how can these insights be applied to real-world problems?

Being science a public good, at least in part, an immediate policy implication concerns sub-optimality of its supply, if left entirely in private hands. This problem is addressed with both public funding and intellectual property. The course focusses especially on the latter. Besides treating formal intellectual property rights such as patents, it digs into the informal intellectual property rights system that regulates the production of academic science.

It also explores the interaction between the two. Another important issue is the analysis of the human capital that is necessary to both produce and absorb scientific knowledge. In the course, we discuss the careers and mobility in space of scientists and technologists.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing research in the Economics of Science and Innovation, and what are some of the most promising areas for future research in the field?

The relationship between intellectual property and innovation remains an important topic. One topic the course cannot cover, due to time constraints, but what will become of crucial political importance over the next few years is public procurement: all advanced countries are nowadays engaging in massive programmes of support to innovation in environmental technologies and/or strategic innovations.

Another one, upon which the course touches briefly, is the relationship between migration and innovation. Both multinational companies and universities are nowadays engaging in a race to recruit higher educated individuals worldwide, especially in the science and technology fields. At the same time, many developing countries are investing massively in higher education in the same fields. The global flows of these highly skilled migrants will affect heavily the geography of innovation over the next few years.

Who is this course designed for? Is it only for Master’s and PhD students or can also be beneficial for professionals?   

The course is mainly conceived for master’s and PhD students or for policy-makers interested in gaining an understanding of the fundamentals of the policy tools they administer. Managers may be more interested in classes on intellectual property.

What skills can develop the participants of this program and how can they apply them to the work market?

The lectures are problem-oriented, with selected issues to be discussed by a joint reading of academic publications. The laboratories are data- and methods-oriented so that students can familiarize with specific types of data and some uses of them, which could turn out useful for both their research projects or for projects to be run for policy-making bodies or firm strategies.

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