There is something about intangible assets which I find fascinating. I don't know exactly what it is. Perhaps it's just that existing measures of innovation always seem to come up so short of fully capturing innovation. Wikipedia has a definition of intangible assets but there is really a broad range of definitions used in the literature. Corrado, Sichel, and Hulten are the most referenced scholars in this area for some work they did several years back which attempted to measure, with a lot of underlying assumptions, intangible capital in the United States economy. That work has now been replicated by other scholars around the world.
The Athena Alliance has a new paper our on monetizing intangible assets that focuses on key policy directions that need to happen in order to provide for monetization (and transparency) of intangible assets. I would also recommend a PowerPoint that one of the authors presented in early March 2009 that appears to be related to this paper release. I first saw Athena present at a workshop of the National Academies last year. In this area, I'd also look at some of the work of the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies (EFFAS) who have been taking an approach of determining industry-appropriate measures for intangible assets and innovation. I believe they will be releasing some reports in this area over the coming months.
We have been working hard on a slightly different effort with intangible assets - how to measure it in a business survey. I am not going to get fully into that today. There are some exciting business surveys going on around the world to test different questions on measuring intangible assets. If you are aware of questions which have been used or tested on this subject, please let me know.