The outbreak of the Coronavirus has caused a sudden and pervasive lockdown of vital activities in the Norwegian society. Although society is gradually turning back to normal, large parts of the economy is already severely affected, and many companies will continue to struggle as the crisis unfolds. At the same time, some companies find new opportunities and even prosper in such times of economic turmoil and uncertainty. A key question that we address in this project is: what happens to research and innovation activities in the Norwegian business sector during this crisis? Understanding the response to economic shocks can help elaborating R&D and innovation policies.
Indeed, there is general consensus in the scholarly literature that companies engaging in R&D and innovation should be better at weathering economic downturns and even turning crises to new opportunities. This is also a core rationale for public support to business R&D and innovation. But companies are hit and respond differently to sudden downturns. The current crisis provides a unique opportunity to explore general hypotheses empirically and thereby provide valuable insight for companies and authorities that seek to find the right measures and strategies to manoeuvre through the crisis.
We assume that innovation is needed to cope with a pandemic crisis. We acknowledge that many roads to innovation exist, and we want to check which of these roads are best suited for driving the economy out of the crisis. The project will address two main sets of research questions:
1) Which firms are able to cope with a pandemic crisis? Are they innovative and in what respect? And are there firms that thrive under a pandemic crisis?
2) How is the innovation landscape of a country reshaped by a pandemic crisis? And how is the country's innovation potential affected?
The project aims at understanding the role of firm-level innovation in promoting economic resilience to pandemic crises. The project bases upon the scientific literature on evolutionary economics and innovation studies, using concepts like adaptation and selection for understanding, in real time, the consequences of a pandemic crisis on a national economy. Empirically, the country under study will be Norway: by analysing a wide array of historical data, a clear picture of the innovation patterns of Norwegian firms will be described. To this purpose, a taxonomy of firms, built from firm-level and employee-level data, will be used to categorize Norwegian firms according to their research, development and innovation patterns. The project will then dig into real-time information on crisis-related bankruptcies and on policy measures aimed at struggling enterprises, in order to understand which parts of the innovation landacape of Norway, as represented by the firm-level innovation categories outlined above, seem to be most resilient to the crises. A main assumption of the project is that different innovation patterns could lead to crisis resilience. Finally, an update of a comprehensive firm survey on R&D and innovation will allow to investigate how the innovation landscape itself is going to change during and following the pandemic crisis.