Skilled Migrants’ Contribution to Innovation

What is the contribution of skilled migrants to the innovation capacity of the host country?


The current refugee crisis has become a focus of the media, the public and policymakers alike. The academic community is also paying increased attention to migration-related issues. The economis literature has presented as evidence that immigration and global labour mobility have considerable effect on dimensions such as labour markets, innovation, productivity spillovers, and public finance.

The current political debate is characterised by the coexistence of rigid opposing views of those who consider immigration as a burden for the host economy and those who instead regard immigration as an opportunity. This, unfortunately, overshadows the less controversial, but beneficial, effect of skilled migration. Skilled migration offers an opportunity for boosting innovation, which is a key driver of economic growth. Policymakers around the world are aware of this opportunity and have adopted policies to attract skilled migrants. Despite the emphasis placed on attracting and retaining high-skilled immigrants, academic research on the effect of skilled immigrants on their host country’s economy is relatively sparse.

The overall objective of this project is to advance knowledge-based evidence on skilled migrants and their contribution to the host country’s innovative capacity. The project will provide a global view – in contrast to existing studies, which mainly focus on the United States. It will concentrate on a specific category of skilled workers that is directly relevant for innovation, namely inventors. The research findings will have a wider application in contributing to the policy dialogue on migration and innovation.


  • Innovation
  • Immigration
  • Economics
  • International studies


  • Business
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • IT
  • Statistics
  • Technology


International Organisations

  • World Intellectual Property Organisation

NGOs, state- or other institutions

  • World Bank

Relevant Countries

  • All countries


This project, started in 2016, has been completed.


Working paper 

Contact the project team

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Research team

Gaétan de Rassenfosse
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Orion Penner
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Gabriele Pellegrino
Principal Member
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Carsten Fink
Associated Member
World Intellectual Property Organisation

Paul H. Jensen
Associated Member
University of Melbourne

Caglar Ozden
Associated Member
World Bank Group

Etienne Piguet
Associated Member
Université de Neuchâtel

Julio Raffo
Associated Member
World Intellectual Property Organisation