U.S.-China Innovation Survey of Expert Opinion

The U.S.-China Innovation Survey of Expert Opinion provides a unique way to understand the gap between the innovative capacity of the United States and China.

Administered to industry experts in targeted high-tech industries, the survey highlights each country’s level of innovation, time needed to reach the global technological frontier, and insights into the innovation environment, such as obstacles to innovation.
 
Using a new methodology, the survey is designed around two questions:
 
  1. What is the gap in innovation between the United States and China?
  2. At what rate is China catching up to the United States (or vice versa)?
The survey contributes to policy discussion and academic research on the advancing technological capabilities of China and factors affecting the success of high-tech industries in both the United States and China. By utilizing a qualitative framework and directly targeting industry experts, the survey goes beyond many traditional indicators (i.e. patent output, R&D expenditures, STEM graduates) that often misrepresent actual innovation levels.
 
The survey is a joint project between IGCC, the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego, and the Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management.
 

Methodology

The design of the U.S.-China Innovation Survey of Expert Opinion centers around five components:
 
  1. Industry specificity
  2. Leading-edge firms
  3. Expert-based
  4. Innovation definition
  5. Comparing cross-country responses
1. Industry specificity
Innovation performance varies across industries. To account for this, we measure innovation at the country-industry level, using a separate survey for each industry to obtain disaggregated results.
 
Innovation differences also exist within industries, requiring that selected industries be narrow enough to avoid over-aggregating innovation measurement but general enough to have policy relevance.
 
For example, in the semiconductor industry, innovation performance differs between integrated circuit (IC) design, manufacturing, and test and packaging subsectors. Within IC design, however, differences also exist (i.e., automotive, consumer electronics, wireless) but narrowing further would limit policy application. We therefore use IC design as one survey target.
 
2. Leading-edge firms
Firms within a specific industry experience varying levels of innovation based on many factors, including their specific value network and domain. Often these different subgroups are difficult to identify. To allow for easy interpretation, we ask questions in context of "leading-edge" firms.
 
Targeting the survey to leading-edge firms also gives the benefit of capturing the "crest of the wave" innovation to understand when the forefront of Chinese innovation will reach U.S. levels.
 
3. Expert-based
We adopt the broad definition of an expert given by Charles Turner and Elizabeth Martin in Surveying Subjective Phenomena as an individual "in a more or less favorable position to know the facts." In practice, this includes senior executives, scientists, engineers, and academics working in the target industry.
 
An expert opinion survey has multiple advantages. First, experts incorporate their personal knowledge and experience when responding to survey questions, thus providing more information than would be obtained from a direct measure of innovation outputs. Second, traditional innovation surveys use the firm as the unit of analysis. However, views of innovation may differ between experts within a firm. Using a sample of experts allows for wider survey coverage, including experts working outside of firms in academic and government institutions.
 
No complete listing of an industry's expert population exists. To assemble our survey sample, we compile a list of organizations—including firms, universities, and institutes—that work or research in the target industry. Individual experts are then identified, primarily by their job title. As a check on respondents' eligibility, respondents self-rate their level of industry expertise on a five-point scale prior to taking the survey. Respondents who self-identify as "unfamiliar" or "casually acquainted" are prevented from completing the survey.
 
4. Innovation definition
We adopt the OECD definition of innovation:
 
Innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), process, new marketing method or new organizational method.
 
Innovation does not have to be occurring at the global frontier to count as innovation so long as it signifies an improvement to the firm, national market, regional market or global market.
 
5. Comparing cross-country responses
Expert groups from the United States and China likely approach the term "innovation" from different understandings, making a comparison between the two groups difficult. To correct for this bias, respondents are asked in the survey to rate the level of innovative activity of two hypothetical IC design teams in addition to rating their own country. These answers are used to adjust the respondents' self-responses and ensure comparability across countries.

People

UC San Diego Team
Eric Anderson
IGCC
 
Barry Naughton
School of Global Policy and Strategy
 
Tai Ming Cheung
IGCC

Peter Cowhey
School of Global Policy and Strategy
 
Tsinghua Team
CHEN Ling
School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University

WANG Gangbo
School of Management and Economics, Beijing Institute of Technology
 
XUE Lan
School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University