Economic and Technological Complexity:
A Model Study of Indicators of Knowledge-based Innovation Systems

Inga Ivanova, Oivind Strand, Duncan Kushnir, and Loet Leydesdorff


Hidalgo & Hausmann's (2009) Economic Complexity Index (ECI) measures the complexity of national economies in terms of product groups. Analogously to ECI, we develop the Patent Complexity Index (PatCI) on the basis of a matrix of nations versus patent classes. Using linear algebra, the three dimensions countries, product groups, and patent classes can be combined into an integrated ("Triple Helix") measure of complexity (THCI). We measure ECI, PatCI, and THCI during the period 2000-2014 for the 34 OECD member states, the BRICS countries, and a group of emerging economies (Argentina, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Romania, and Singapore). The positive correlation between ECI and average income claimed as an argument for the predictive value of ECI cannot be confirmed using our data. The three complexity indicators are significantly correlated between themselves, yet each captures another aspect of the complexity. THCI adds the trilateral interaction terms among the three bilateral interactions, and can thus be expected to capture the extent of systems integration between the global dynamics of markets (ECI) and technologies (PatCI) in each national system of innovation. Of the world's major economies, Japan scores highest on all three indicators, while China has been increasingly successful in combining economic and technological complexity. Our empirical results raise questions about the interpretation and empirical fruitfulness of the complexity approach.

** aplogies for crosspostings.

Loet Leydesdorff

Professor, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

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Honorary Professor, SPRU, University of Sussex;

Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ., Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC, Beijing;

Visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University of London;