Centre for Transformative Innovation

Economics of innovation

It is not clear why some firms choose not to innovate and what the main obstacles are. There are many plausible half-tested hypotheses about what makes innovation successful, but in many cases insufficient sound evidence to refute or substantiate them. At the Centre for Transformative Innovation, we investigate how businesses behave and why they do or do not choose to innovate.

Orthodox economic theory often treats innovation or technical progress as manna from heaven. The dominant theory of the firm focuses on pricing behaviour and does not seek to explain the behaviour of companies and the process they undertake to create new technology, new processes or new products. These conventional theories assume that firms are always on, or are close to, the technological frontier. They also assume that knowledge, once created, disperses quickly throughout the economy. Although this abstraction of how innovation occurs may be reasonable in some branches of economics, it is unhelpful for studies of productivity growth.

In our research, we avoid notions of instant competitive equilibrium and hyper-rationality and investigate how firms actually behave. We ask questions such as:

  • How risky is innovation and what role do environmental factors play?
  • Why are some firms consistently below the technological frontier?
  • Should governments intervene in the innovation system?

Research areas

Our main areas of research include:

Intellectual property rights

Applied economic and legal analysis of the patent, trademark, designs and plant variety rights systems around the world.

Productivity and firm performance

An analysis of the relationship between innovation and firm performance using large panel business databases.

Public innovation policy

Economic analyses of optimal policy settings in the area of government support for business; the research sector and collaboration between sectors.

Translation of science

An analysis of factors driving or inhibiting the use and dissemination of science into industry and the community.

Asian engagement

Analysis of Australia-Asian engagement and the development of Asian economies.

Current research projects

Our current research projects in this research program include: 

  • effects of innovation, R&D, and government programs on firm performance
  • size of knowledge spill-overs in the Australian economy
  • the link between innovation and trade
  • efficacy of the international patent system
  • building an internationally linked trade mark database.

Industry collaboration

Together with our partners, we aim to improve the performance and productivity of business and industry. We have partnered with several companies and government departments with diverse interests in technology and innovation for policy and management.

Research team

Name

Role

Areas of research

Beth Webster

Director, Centre for Transformative Innovation

Intellectual property, productivity and firm performance, public innovation policy and translation of science

Christine Greenhalgh

Professor of Applied Economics, University of Oxford

Intellectual property and asian engagement

Alfons Palangkaraya

Associate Professor, Economics

Intellectual property, productivity and firm performance, public innovation policy, translation of science and asian engagement

Russell Thomson

Associate Professor, Economics

Intellectual property, productivity and firm performance, public innovation policy, translation of science and asian engagement

Amanda Scardamaglia

Department Chair, Swinburne School of Law

Intellectual property and public innovation policy

Paul Jensen

Professorial Fellow, Swinburne Adjunct, University of Melbourne

Intellectual property, public innovation policy and translation of science

Stephen Petrie

Data Scientist

Intellectual property, and productivity and firm performance

Tom Spurling

Professor, Innovation Studies

Productivity and firm performance, public innovation policy, translation of science

Mitchell Adams

Research Associate

Intellectual property

Abbas Valadkhani

Research Fellow

Energy economics

Amir Moradi Motlagh

Research Fellow

Energy economics

Terry Healy

Adjunct Professor

Intellectual property

Elisabeth Mueller

Adjunct Professor

Intellectual property, productivity and firm performance, public innovation policy and translation of science

John Webb

Professorial Fellow

Asian engagement

Jean-Francois Desvignes

PhD candidate

Economics of innovation

Adam Finch

PhD candidate

Economics of innovation

Peter Leihn

PhD candidate

Economics of innovation