Indicators and Strategies for the Internationalization of Research and Innovation

– a multinational study

Internationalisation of research and innovation (R&I) is becoming an increasingly important priority in various countries but is organised in different ways.

The USA, Singapore, Germany, Great Britain and South Korea can be said to be extremes among the countries that were analysed. The US is characterised by a reliance on its own inherent power of attraction and dominance, although international cooperation is considered to be important, and therefore seldom acts strategically on the basis of an overarching national perspective. There is at the same time an awareness of increasing international competition and a certain amount of information is collected about what other countries are doing. As a consequence of the country’s history, size, economy and ambitions, Singapore’s R&I system is strongly internationalised; international components are however not evaluated separately but are included as a natural part of research and innovation initiatives. Germany and Great Britain act in distinctly strategic ways as regards internationalisation of R&I and follow-ups are made to a certain degree. Among other things, bibliometric and/or mobility studies are made. South Korea distinguishes itself with a distinctly strategic procedure where a comprehensive system of indicators of globalisation is under development.

The analysis shows that many countries measure and publish data that are of relevance to international collaborative research but that relatively few do so with indicators linked to national strategies. Rather, statistics describing aspects of R&I developments, including internationalisation, are published regularly. Norway is an interesting example. The country’s research council has drawn up an internationalisation strategy and eight specific strategies targeted at different countries are also under development. Statistics relevant to the internationalisation of R&I are published annually and various issues are analysed in separate reports or through various themes in annual reports. The reports do not, however, automatically feed back into the internationalisation strategy in any formal way.

In addition to the national circumstances, the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis has also briefly described a number of different projects for measuring R&I internationalisation using indicators. These are often, but not always, focused on universities and other institutions of higher education. Many different questions ranging from internationalisation budgets to reception systems for foreign students are relevant to international collaboration and the number of potential indicators therefore easily becomes quite high. It is important that the outcomes of indicator projects such as the IMPI project (described in Chapter 9.4) be regarded as toolboxes from which indicators and groups of indicators can be used to elucidate the specific questions and goals that have been formulated.

Some recurrent themes can be distinguished among the proposed indicators. These are specified in the various chapters in the report but include, for example:

  • frameworks, strategies and control systems,
  • budget and administrative resources,
  • R&I funding,
  • mobility (researchers and students), networks and collaborative projects,
  • power of attraction,
  • outcomes (incl. joint publications, innovations, patents, licences),
  • effects on trade, market presence, and political influence.

Experience from other countries shows that developing indicators demands considerable care for them to be able to serve as good incentives to stimulate and promote internationalisation. First, it is important to bear in mind that indicators can be used at different levels of aggregation (national, authority, university, company) and that several are relevant for measuring success against different goals at the different levels. Indicators or groups of indicators must be chosen with care for them to elucidate the chosen questions at the same time as they neither can, nor should, be used for all questions. Possibilities to produce data cost-effectively must be assessed, as must the chosen indicators’ stability over time. In that context, fundamental definitions such as for example what is meant by researcher mobility, and what its optimum size is, are important aspects to discuss.

Second, the fundamental question here is how indicators can or are to be chosen to measure success against the goals set in Sweden’s internationalisation strategy for research and research-based innovation. The focus is a national one and a relatively small number of indicators should probably therefore be developed for the system not to become too resource-intensive. Further questions include how often indicators should be published and how the results are to be analysed and used. In addition to indicators, separate analyses can throw further light on selected qualitative and quantitative aspects as desired, which is also important to be able to evaluate specific initiatives and programmes to promote internationalisation. It is possible that some of the strategy’s goals (see also Chapter 10) should be made more stringent or more strictly defined where indicators are to be used. Finally, it is important to make a thorough analysis of the current status of the scope and structure of internationalisation in Sweden, before introducing indicators coupled to the internationalisation strategy.

Indicators and Strategies for the Internationalization of Research and Innovation – a multinational study

Serial number: Direct response 2014:09

Reference number: 2014/163

Download the report in Swedish Pdf, 2.2 MB.


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