Academic Freedom and Innovation: A Research Note
26 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2023
Date Written: March 10, 2023
The first-ever article published in Research Policy was Casimir’s (1971) advocacy of academic freedom in light of the industry’s increasing influence on research in universities. Half a century later, the literature attests to the dearth of work on the role of academic freedom for innovation. To fill this gap, we employ instrumental variable techniques to identify the impact of academic freedom on the quantity (patent applications) and quality (patent citations) of innovation output. The empirical evidence suggests that improving academic freedom by one standard deviation increases patent applications and forward citations by 41% and 29%, respectively. The results hold in a representative sample of 157 countries over the 1900–2015 period. This research note is also an alarming plea to policymakers: Global academic freedom has declined over the past decade for the first time in the last century. Our estimates suggest that the decline of academic freedom has resulted in a global loss quantifiable with at least 4.0% fewer patents filed and 5.9% fewer patent citations.
Keywords: academic freedom, innovation, patent applications, forward citations
JEL Classification: O34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation