Impact of multidisciplinary research on innovation

October 2017

Campbell, D., Struck, B., Tippett, C., and Roberge, G.

(2017). Impact of multidisciplinary research on innovation. Conference paper presented by David Campbell at 16th International Conference on Scientometrics & Informetrics (ISSI 2017), Wuhan, China, 16–20 October 2017.


Governmental initiatives capitalising on multidisciplinary (or interdisciplinary) research are growing in number. They are motivated by the increasingly shared view among academics and policymakers that this mode of research, by favouring innovation in firms, will fuel the economic competitiveness of nations through job creation and increased revenues. However, there is an obvious lack of empirical evidence supporting the connection between multidisciplinary research and innovation. This study partly fills this gap by addressing the following question: Is the knowledge disclosed in a scientific publication more likely to be taken up in innovation (i.e. cited in the patent literature) as its multidisciplinarity index increases? The results thus obtained clearly show, in the aggregates, that multidisciplinarity increases the odds of research results being useful to innovation, thereby supporting existing R&I policy interventions or paving the way for new ones. However, because uptake in innovation, as measured through patent citations to scientific articles, remains a relatively rare phenomenon, multidisciplinary research is not an effective predictor of an individual article being useful to innovation; science is experimental, and the innovation outcome of an individual project cannot be guaranteed ahead of time merely through the extent of disciplinary mixing among the participating researchers.

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