Soft Innovation
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Soft Innovation

Soft Innovation assesses the importance to the UK of aesthetic, or 'soft', innovation.

Soft Innovation assesses the importance to the UK of aesthetic, or 'soft', innovation.

Key findings

  • Soft innovation is a concept that reflects aesthetic changes
  • To concentrate only on technological innovation while ignoring soft innovation provides only a limited and biased account of total innovation
  • There are high rates of soft innovation in the creative industries, though it is significant outside the creative industries too
  • The commercial benefits of soft innovation may be very high; government intervention could be justified, especially when it comes to intellectual property rights as an area for policy
  • However, government policy must embrace all innovative activity, not just technological or scientific


In this report, the economist Paul Stoneman uncovers a picture of rapid innovative change of an aesthetic nature – what he terms ‘soft innovation’. He argues that current government policy distorts the economy by supporting innovation of a technological and functional nature, and neglecting innovation of a 'soft' kind.


In the creative industries, Professor Stoneman points to estimates suggesting very high and increasing rates of soft innovation: for example, about one-half of the titles in the UK Top 40 album chart change each month. And the bestselling video games now spend on average less than three weeks at the No. 1 position.


This report argues for an overhaul of innovation policy to recognise soft innovation alongside innovation of a technological nature.