There are many resources available for empirical research on innovation. We have tried to summarize the most important gateways to information on various aspects.
Patents are a good way to keep track of innovation output and technological changes. Approximately 2 million new patents are filed every year all over the World, providing researchers with an incredible amount of information.
Many internet gateways exist, where you can search for patents and find related information. To give just two important examples, WIPO features the patent search engine Patent Scope, and the EPO and the national European patent offices provide access to information on espacenet. In both cases, you can search patents by applicant, by technological class, by date, by priority number etc., and you will find bibliographical information such as the claims and the prior art. You can also check the legal status of the patent, i.e. whether the patent has been opposed, granted, renewed, reassigned etc.
These internet gateways are great for finding detailed information on specific patents, but they are not intended for statistical analysis of big numbers of patents. For this purpose, you should rely upon aggregated databases, such as most famously PATSTAT. The use of PATSTAT requires a license, but the cost is not prohibitive. Databases of patents issued by several patent offices can be downloaded free of charge. This is for instance the case of US patents. Bronwyn Hall and the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US feature a database with more than 3 milion unique US patent observations. For each patent observation, the data includes information on the number of claims, citations made and received, the type of assignee, the technological class and some important variables more. On the same site, you can also download an even bigger database keeping track of citations between US patents, indicating for each citation the citing and the cited patent. You can match this information to the USPTO database on “maintenance fee events”, to obtain renewals statistics and to identify the number of valid patents per year by applicant or by technology.
The OECD website hosts several important patent statistics. For instance, you can find aggregate statistics on patent files per technological field per country per year, data on international technological cooperation and a compendium of statistics with stylized facts of recent developments.
Another way to track innovation and technological changes is to analyze standards.
There are several options for gathering data. CEN, the European standard body, just came up with a revised search for standards. Another opportunity provides the International standard body ISO or the several national standard bodies like DIN, NEN or AFNOR to give but a few examples.
More detailed, PERINORM, the worlds leading bibliographic database of national, European and international standards, provides a total of 1,100,000 records from 23 countries. Basically, the database is available on annual subscription, but several universities offer access for free.
You might also be interested in having a closer look at the activity of informal standardization consortia. CEN proposes an annual survey of ICT standards consortia, probably the most comprehensive gateway to information on informal standardization.
Several innovation scholars have carried through empirical research on standardization issues and share data on their websites. For example, Tim Simcoe’s databases on internet standardization procedures at IETF can be accessed and downloaded on his webiste. There you can also find a database of patents declared as essential to standards issued by major Standard Setting Organizations.