The innovation response to the covid disaster: A brand new eBook


Carsten Fink, Yann Ménière, Andrew A. Toole, Reinhilde Veugelers 13 July 2022

The World Well being Group declared COVID-19 to be a worldwide pandemic on 11 March 2020. Not solely has COVID-19 induced huge losses to public well being worldwide, it additionally prompted main financial havoc worldwide (e.g. Bénassy-Quéré and Weder di Mauro 2020 for Europe, Djankov and Panizza 2020 for growing nations, and extra evaluation on Vox right here). The decline in world GDP in 2020 turned out to be the most important annual decline since WWII (Gopinath 2021, IMF 2021). 

Earlier crises have proven that innovators, regardless of their long-term focus, should not proof against short-term disruptions. In the course of the 2007-2008 world monetary disaster and the next Nice Recession, for instance, corporations skilled curtailed entry to finance for innovation (Lee et al. 2015) and have been much less ready and keen to spend money on innovation (Archebugi et al. 2013). Fiscal contraction within the common economic system, in flip, put stress on combination demand and public budgets to assist analysis (Cruz-Castro and Sanz-Menéndez 2016).  On the similar time, crises may also be a catalyst for innovation, as they alter societies’ quick and future technological wants. This was manifestly the case for revolutionary exercise throughout WWII, which prompted main analysis efforts within the US to develop army applied sciences and medical remedies to assist the struggle and laid the muse for a lot of postwar improvements and innovation coverage (Gross and Sampat 2020).

How did the innovation system reply to the Covid-19 disaster?  A brand new eBook from CEPR, the European Patent Workplace (EPO), the US Patent and Trademark Workplace (USTPO), and the World Mental Property Group (WIPO) takes a primary step towards understanding what occurred in numerous components of the world and the way completely different actors within the innovation ecosystem – personal and not-for-profit organisations, governments, and people – adjusted (Fink et al. 2022).

Obtain Resilience and Ingenuity: International Innovation Responses to COVID-19 right here 

Impression the world over: A lot similarity, some divergence

The primary a part of the eBook gives insights into the short-term response of innovators on the world and nationwide ranges, as captured by mental property (IP) utility tendencies in the course of the first two years of the pandemic. It attracts a complete image of the unfolding of the disaster within the IP world, from which a variety of necessary classes emerge.

First, the influence of the pandemic on the submitting of patents, emblems and different IP rights has been much less extreme in comparison with earlier crises such because the bursting of the dotcom bubble within the early 2000s or the Nice Recession. Patent filings world wide have been negatively hit, however declines proved shallow and short-lived – usually confined to the weeks and months following the pandemic’s onset in March 2020 (see Determine 1 for worldwide patent purposes).  

Determine 1 Worldwide patent purposes in disaster instances

Notes: Worldwide patent purposes check with purposes filed within the worldwide part of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).  The figures introduced are month-to-month 3-month transferring common development charges relative the identical interval within the earlier 12 months.  Patent counts are primarily based on the worldwide submitting date of PCT purposes, both at nationwide/regional patent workplaces or instantly at WIPO.
Supply: WIPO IP Statistics Database

The disaster nonetheless left its mark on patenting efficiency throughout economies and throughout expertise fields. China and the Republic of Korea stand out because the least impacted economies, seeing continued development in patenting.1 The quickest rising fields of patenting embrace health-related applied sciences (prescription drugs, biotechnologies, medical applied sciences) and digital applied sciences (e.g. digital communication, laptop applied sciences).  Whereas already on the rise earlier than 2020, the pressing wants created by the pandemic boosted innovation in these two fields. Conversely, the COVID-19 disaster aggravated the relative decline of patenting in additional conventional expertise sectors, reminiscent of mechanical engineering.

China and the Republic of Korea largely benefitted from this development, because of their specialisation in digital innovation. Each nations confirmed sustained exercise of enormous incumbent corporations in addition to native start-ups on this sector in the course of the pandemic.  Against this, the relative specialisation of Germany and Japan in additional conventional engineering-based industries might clarify why the disaster had a extra pronounced detrimental impact on patent filings from these two nations. 

Different indicators affirm the general resilience of revolutionary actions.  Proof from the US exhibits that R&D expenditures by corporations exhibited much less volatility than investments in bodily capital.  Nonetheless, the disaster appears to have impacted some classes of smaller, budget-constrained innovators extra severely.  US and European SMEs typically needed to scale down their investments in patented improvements and reported a scarcity of funding for such investments. Proof from Brazil additionally reveals that patenting decreased extra amongst particular person micro-entrepreneurs, micro-enterprises and small companies than amongst bigger corporations, with one notable exception: there was a substantial uptake of utility fashions by native micro-entrepreneurs because the pandemic unfolded.

Extra broadly, many contributions to the eBook present proof for vibrant entrepreneurship unleashed by the disaster and fostered by the speedy adoption of digital applied sciences.  That is evident in trademark submitting tendencies – capturing the commercialisation of recent items and companies.  Determine 2 depicts the evolution of worldwide trademark filings in the midst of the three crises mentioned earlier.  The COVID-19 disaster stands out in displaying the shallowest decline, adopted by a rare growth in worldwide trademark purposes a few 12 months into the disaster.  Healthcare merchandise and ecommerce-related items and companies, broadly mirroring the patenting focus, have been one key driver behind this restoration, even when the prominence of various product teams various throughout economies.

Determine 2 Worldwide trademark purposes in disaster instances

Notes: Worldwide trademark purposes check with purposes filed beneath WIPO’s Madrid System.  Figures are introduced in accordance with the Madrid submitting date.
Supply: WIPO IP Statistics Database

Extra specific measures of entrepreneurship – introduced within the contributions from the Republic of Korea (Chapter 8) and Australia (Chapter 10) – affirm a surge in enterprise entries and startup exercise in 2021.  Curiously, an analogous startup growth occurred within the midst of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919 (Seashore et al. 2020), highlighting how societal disruption generates momentum to begin new actions for these entrepreneurs keen and capable of take the chance amidst excessive total uncertainty.

Responses within the innovation ecosystem

The second a part of the eBook focuses on how completely different segments of the innovation ecosystem responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.   One focus is the science sector.  Survey proof from the US (Chapter 12) reveals that complete analysis time decreased considerably for all tutorial researchers, however these losses weren’t uniform throughout scientific fields of examine or sorts of researchers. Girls researchers and researchers with kids have been most closely affected and the disaster might have completely altered their scientific profession alternatives.  The chapter argues that the coverage responses by tutorial establishments might show inadequate to deal with these hostile outcomes and should have even accentuated them.

A second focus is how the biomedical innovation ecosystem responded to the disaster. Amongst different contributions, Chapter 15 tells the story of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.  It highlights the problem of acquiring early-stage monetary assist for innovation.  Solely a handful of cussed scientists, start-up entrepreneurs, angel buyers and coverage officers on the US Protection Superior Analysis Initiatives Company have been keen to fund the excessive danger of the high-gain mRNA expertise in its early years. In hindsight, the COVID-19 vaccines primarily based on mRNA applied sciences made essential contributions to overcoming the impacts of COVID-19, however society might simply have missed out on them.

Coverage takeaways and outlook

General, the eBook concludes that the worldwide innovation system proved to be resilient to the Covid-19 pandemic and its ingenuity contributed a lot in direction of addressing it.  Coverage assist was instrumental for each.

Fiscal assist measures cushioned the demand shocks, serving to companies keep solvent and employees to remain employed (Gourinchas et al. 2021). The destruction of productive intangible capital might have been far worse. Financial coverage assist, in flip, enabled the continued availability of financing for innovation and fuelling the entrepreneurship wave described above (WIPO 2021).  As monetary circumstances have tightened extra not too long ago (via 2022), the supply of danger capital has sharply declined. This raises the query of whether or not the unfastened financial circumstances and financial insurance policies in the course of the disaster generated an unsustainable diploma of ‘revolutionary exuberance’.

A second takeaway is that policymakers shouldn’t take the ingenuity of the innovation system without any consideration. As already identified, the mRNA expertise might have been simply missed by a short-sighted, risk-averse innovation assist system. To have the ability to rely on the innovation system to shortly ship highly effective options to societal challenges, innovation coverage ought to take a longer-term, proactive perspective, supporting new concepts which have the potential to turn out to be breakthroughs of their early high-risk phases. Steady investments in scientific analysis stay essential in producing the information underlying technological breakthroughs.

After all, the disaster will not be over presently and our understanding of its ramifications will stay imperfect for a while to return. Whereas most nations have lifted lots of the public well being measures put in place to stem the pandemic, COVID-19 mutations are nonetheless spreading world wide.  The administration of future an infection waves might trigger much less disruption than in the course of the pandemic’s first two years – thanks largely to latest improvements in biomedical and digital options. Nonetheless, it is going to absolutely proceed to depart a mark on innovation methods.

Extra analysis can also be wanted to deepen our understanding of how innovators responded to the disaster.  The total bibliographical particulars of patent purposes are usually solely revealed with a delay of 18 months.  Thus, bibliographical knowledge for patents for innovations that occurred after the pandemic’s onset have solely not too long ago turn out to be obtainable.  Future research can thus shed extra mild on how completely different innovation stakeholders can have responded, together with the consequences on particular person inventors and on collaboration throughout establishments and throughout nations.


Archebugi, D, A Filipetti and M Frenz (2013), “The influence of the financial disaster on innovation: Proof from Europe”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 80(7): 1247-1260. 

Seashore, B, Okay Clay and M H Saavedra (2020), “The 1918 influenza pandemic and its classes for COVID-19”, NBER Working Paper No. 27673.

Bénassy-Quéré, A and B Weder di Mauro (2020), Europe within the Time of Covid-19, CEPR Press.

Cruz-Castro, L and L Sanz-Menéndez (2016), “The results of the financial disaster on public analysis: Spanish budgetary insurance policies and analysis organizations”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 113(B): 157-167.  

Djankov, S and U Panizza (2020), COVID-19 in Creating Economies, CEPR Press.

Fink, C, Y Ménière, A A Toole and R Veugelers (2022), Resilience and Ingenuity: International Innovation Responses to COVID-19, CEPR Press.

Gopinath, G (2021), “A Race Between Vaccines and the Virus as Recoveries Diverge”, IMF Weblog, 26 January.

Gourinchas, P-O, S Kalemli-Ozcan, V Penciakova and N Sander (2021), “Fiscal Coverage within the Age of COVID: Does it ‘Get in all of the cracks?’”, NBER Working Paper No. 29293. 

Gross, D P and B N Sampat (2020), “Organizing Disaster Innovation: Classes from World Struggle II”, NBER Working Paper No. 27909. 

IMF (2021), World Financial Outlook: Managing Divergent Recoveries, April.

Lee, N, H Sameen and M Cowling (2015), “Entry to finance for revolutionary SMEs for the reason that monetary disaster”, Analysis Coverage 44(2): 370-380.  


1 As a caveat, you will need to observe that the evaluation of China’s innovation efficiency in Chapter 7 of the eBook doesn’t think about the latest COVID-19 wave in 2022 and its repercussions for China’s economic system and innovation system.



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