Academic Freedom and Innovation
(with D. Audretsch, C. Fisch, C. Franzoni, S. Vismara)
Abstract: The first-ever article published in Research Policy was Casimir’s (1971) advocacy of academic freedom in the light of the industry’s increasing influence on research in universities. Half a centure 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 at the country level. The empirical evidence suggests that improving academic freedom by one standard deviation increases patent applications and forward citations by at least 37% and 29%, respectively. The results hold in a representative sample of 157 countries over the 1900-2015 period, with a sample/population coverage ratio of 92%. This research note also is an alarming plea to policymakers: Global academic freedom has declined over the past decade for the first time over 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.