With our network of innovative companies and thought leaders the CEO and CoCreator of the Big Innovation Centre – Professor Birgitte Andersen – has launched a Taskforce to capture the business, economic and societal opportunities provided by the intangible economy.  Unlocking a breakthrough link between intangible assets, Intellectual Property and performance we show how these assets have become the new gold – driving corporate success, economic productivity and welfare. 

Intangible Gold - but where is the rush?

During the historical gold rush and the American land acquisition period it was economic confidence which allowed finance to flow, industry to unfold, and markets to grow. It was the same during the “black gold” oil boom of the twentieth century. The same could be said for the railways and electrification period. But the new gold is invisible and weightless. It needs a different plan to unlock its value to boost the growth in jobs and welfare we only dream of.

Intellectual capital, and related intangible assets, are the INTANGIBLE GOLD OF OUR TIME. Companies invest more in such assets (computerized information, data, software, intellectual property, science, economic competencies, business processes and more) than in buildings, machinery and raw materials. Intellectual capital is also a bigger contributor to gross domestic product, and the gap is increasing. Intellectual capital is today’s source of corporate competitiveness and value creation for services and manufacturing in terms of financial performance, market dominance, technological advantage and dynamic capabilities. Most high-growth SMEs have higher levels of intangible assets such as strategic networks, patents, trademarks, knowhow and skills as well as databases and software models relative to other SMEs. Unfortunately, these SMEs fail to receive growth finance as their capital is hard to measure and recapture by sale in case of economic distress.

Innovation in the new world of intellectual capitalism is more complex than in the old tangible world. We are now faced with mass challenges such as building smart cities, health care systems and technology platforms or reducing carbon emissions, which no one firm could independently deal with. Music and publishing were the first to be pushed out of the comfort zone when challenged by the Internet. The opportunities for enhancing corporate competitiveness from our intangible gold has increased in depth and scope, because of the integration of micro-electronics and information and communication technology (ICT) into business practices and organizations. Thus, the competitiveness from intangibles is associated with the digital revolution and e-business, but the story here does not merely refer to Internet firms (as in the early days) or services, but includes all manufacturing businesses as well. 

Intangible Gold economies cannot ignore...

  • Business cycle behaviour, creative destruction and the emergence of the intangible economy: How are disruptive technologies turned into business opportunities? How can intangible assets help us to move from crisis to economic recovery?
  • Translating intangibles into productivity: Is there a productivity mirage? Do current total factor productivity measures (of output, capital, labour, energy, materials and services) for our national accounts make sense? What are the problems and possibilities of measuring the performance of knowledge intensive business services (e.g. banking or retail) or knowledge intensive public services (e.g. hospitals, education institutions or universities)? What is the role of quality, price, space, sustainability and technological advance?
  • Entrepreneurial finance and intangibles: How does intangible value differ across companies and sectors and what can they learn from one another? Why is our financial ecosystem not able to support corporate scale-ups, but only start-ups? Why are boards of large firms not report on intangible assets? What does it take to build long-term finance?
  • Translating intangibles into an open innovation strategy: How are companies full of intangible assets more innovative?
  • Intangible assets and customer responsiveness: How can intangible assets help to build trust and loyalty in the market place?
  • Intellectual property (IP) governance & IP markets: How do companies unlock strategic value in the market place from patents, copyright, open source, technology and know-how? What is the strategic value companies seek from IP and what are the inefficiencies in IP markets? 
  • Organizational capital and the emergence of a smarter society: How do intangibles translate into supply chain strategies? How are our markets, firms and institutions in the twenty first century interlinked? Why do our 'value chains' evolve into 'value networks' or new virtual marketplaces? What is the role of digital platforms and big data?
  • The intellectual property right (IPR) system setting the rules of the game in the new world of business: Are we achieving our objectives from regulation? Does the EU need a digital single market? What do you think about the TRIPS agreement of the WTO, or the protection of traditional knowledge?
  • Comparative capitalisms, the rise of the intangible economy and the digital divide: What is the role of business systems, national systems of innovation and social capital?

How to take part?


Conventional productivity and performance measures are not capturing the new economy. For example, productivity measures used by governments focus on physical measures and conventional input–output relationships. Companies that invest most in the new technology are measured the least productive in public records because the measurement doesn’t pick up on quality, sustainability and service issues, it merely focuses on physical output.

This measurement paradox is a problem because government cannot plan its budget, infrastructure investment, tax levels, public expenses for research, education, skills and social issues, or even decide on which sectors and technologies to develop support strategies around. Business leaders cannot benefit from a progressive government or even themselves set sound strategies for their investment and performance efficiency, if their factors of production or service delivery are based upon mainly intangibles. This is a global problem.

The aim of the PRODUCTIVITY IN THE 21st CENTURY taskforce is to solve the productivity puzzle in a practical way through use-cases in Living Labs - where we prototype, test and assess alternative forms of productivity and performance measurement - alongside thought leadership developing operational measurements. We will initially focus on construction, energy, digital platforms / robotics, health and transport. We think this is the most valuable approach for both government, business leaders and stakeholders. 


Companies don’t report on their most dynamic drivers, namely their intangible assets – what they are, what difference they make, or what they are worth. But IP reporting is needed for a range of business situations: Monitoring corporate intangible capital performance; Mergers & Acquisitions; as loan collateral or for equity deals; the commercial prospects for early stage R&D; prioritizing research effort; technology transfer negotiations; IP co-ventures, public listing on stock market, IP as trading objects; or useful for public domain or social IP situations.

IP reporting and valuation are now also central to a range of business situations for SMEs just as they always have been for large publicly listed companies, as this is encapsulated in the companies’ innovative capability, strategic networks, product and service competitiveness, strategic positioning, financial strength and risk. 

The aim of the IP REPORT Taskforce is to design an ‘operational measurement standard’ and tool for IP reporting, which is able to classify, measure and value IP; and which is recognized by companies, government and financial institutions.


Joint Big Innovation Centre partners - and with involvement from Office of National Statistics, Bank of England, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Intellectual Property Office and HM Treasury - to capture the business, economic and societal opportunities provided by the intangible economy. 

Contact CEO and CoCreator, Birgitte Andersen:


INTANGIBLE GOLD CALL FOR ACTION: Productivity and Auditing in the 21st Century

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Professor Birgitte Andersen

Email: Twitter: @BirgitteBIC As CEO and CoCreator of the Big Innovation Centre, Professor Birgitte Andersen (PhD Economics) is leading it as a London based open innovation... See more...


INTANGIBLE GOLD WORKING BREAKFAST See photos from the event CALL FOR ACTION: Productivity and Intangible Assets Auditing in the 21st Century Location: Big Innovation Centre, Ergon House (4th Floor),... See more...