Innovation is a measure of the extent to which science and technology are used within businesses to create new products or to implement new processes for the provision of goods and services. Innovation surveys provide a wider measure of the innovation process than R&D surveys.
The ABS has conducted two surveys of innovation, the first in respect of 1993-94 and a second, more comprehensive survey, in respect of 1996-97. These surveys were based on the concepts and standard questions developed jointly by the OECD and Eurostat (the statistical office for the European community). While the main ABS innovation surveys obtained data from manufacturing businesses, exploratory surveys have also been conducted for the mining, agriculture, construction and telecommunications industries.
The statistics which follow present some of the main findings from the ABS innovation surveys of manufacturing businesses only. The data include the proportion of businesses which innovate, the reasons why businesses innovate and the costs involved. The data are presented by business size, where small businesses are defined as those having fewer than 20 employees, medium sized businesses as those having 20 to 199 employees, and large businesses as those having 200 or more employees. The survey results relate only to businesses with employees.
As can be seen in table 25.15, just over a quarter of all manufacturing businesses were identified as undertaking technological innovation in 1996-97. The rate of technological innovation had a strong relationship with size of business. Large businesses were over three times more likely to undertake technological innovation than small businesses.
Of businesses which undertook technological innovation, over half undertook both product and process innovation (i.e. they introduced new, or significantly technologically changed products and used new, or significantly technologically changed processes to produce their products). Only 3% of businesses introduced new processes without introducing new products. Over 8% of businesses introduced new products without using new processes.
25.15 MANUFACTURING BUSINESSES, Proportion Undertaking Technological Innovation by Business Size - 1996-97
|Business size |
Product and process
|(a) Fewer than 20 employees.|
(b) 20 to 1999 employees.
(c) 200 or more employees.
Source: Innovation in Manufacturing, Australia (8116.0).
In 1996-97, the rate of technological innovation was lower than in 1993-94, when almost one-third of manufacturing businesses undertook technological innovation. This decline was largely due to the drop in the rate of small businesses undertaking technological innovation from 28% in 1993-94 to 22% in 1996-97.
Even though only just over a quarter of manufacturing businesses undertook technological innovation, because of the higher proportion of larger businesses, innovative businesses in total contributed about two-thirds of the total employment and three-quarters of the total turnover of all manufacturing businesses.
Almost two-thirds of large businesses had staff dedicated to innovation work, while less than one-quarter of small businesses had staff dedicated to this work. Large businesses were almost three times more likely than small businesses to take staff off-line to undertake innovation work.