David Argente, Salome Baslandze, Douglas Hanley, Sara Moreira, 28 May 2020

Patents are at the heart of policies designed to incentivise innovation and productivity growth. In recent years however, while patent activity has skyrocketed, innovation and productivity growth have not. This column collects data on product innovations and links those to their respective patent. While patent filings are found to be followed by product innovations overall, this relationship is much stronger for firms with lower market share.

Dany Bahar, Raj Choudhury, Hillel Rapoport, 28 February 2020

There is considerable historical and contemporary evidence of the linkages between skilled migration and innovation, suggesting that one of the most important engines of economic growth stands to be strongly negatively affected by the growing backlash against migration around the world. Based on a 95-country sample spanning several decades, this column shows that migrant inventors play an important role in shaping the patent production of their destination countries. Arguably, these dynamics – driven by migrant inventors – can also affect broader economic outcomes, given the secondary effects of patenting and innovation on productivity and firm performance.

Michele Pezzoni, Reinhilde Veugelers, Fabiana Visentin, 03 September 2019

The diffusion of novel technologies plays a crucial role in stimulating economic growth, but when a novel technology appears it is difficult to predict its later diffusion trajectory in terms of follow-on inventions. This column shows how the antecedents of a novel technology characterise its diffusion pattern by identifying the diffusion trajectories for a large sample of novel technologies using large-scale patent information. Riskier types of novel technologies, while having a larger technological impact, are taken up more slowly.

Ufuk Akcigit, Sina T. Ates, 04 July 2019

The US economy has witnessed a number of striking trends that indicate rising market concentration and a slowdown in business dynamism in recent decades. This column uses a micro-founded model of endogenous firm dynamics to show that a decline in the intensity of knowledge diffusion from frontier firms to laggard ones plays a key role in the observed shifts. It presents new evidence on higher concentration of patenting in the hands of firms with the largest stock that corroborates declining knowledge diffusion in the economy. 

Martin Watzinger, Monika Schnitzer, 21 June 2019

The role of science is the subject of controversial debate in the academic literature and public discourse. This column studies US patents to establish three new facts about the relationship between science and the value of private-sector inventions. First, patents building on science are on average $2.9 million more valuable than patents unrelated to science. Second, the novelty of patents predicts their value in a similar way as their science content does. Third, science-based patents are more novel. Taken together, these observations show that science introduces new concepts that are valuable for marketplace inventions.

Johannes Eugster, Giang Ho, Florence Jaumotte, Roberto Piazza, 12 June 2019

Technology diffusion to emerging markets helps share growth potential across countries and lift global living standards. Using a global patent citation dataset, this column estimates the magnitude and impact of international knowledge and technology diffusion, as well as the role that globalisation has played. In emerging markets, knowledge flows have increased innovation and productivity. Competition from emerging markets benefits global innovation.

Sadao Nagaoka, 15 May 2019

Standard essential patents are patents that are needed in order to comply with a particular standard. Technologies protected by such patents are granted on the condition that rights holders commit to licensing the patents on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. This column surveys three key issues that arise under these licensing agreements: hold-up, reverse hold-up, and ex-ante negotiation. The discussion highlights how patent award procedures affect the incentives for firms to invest in R&D. 

Ann Harrison, Marshall W. Meyer, Will Wang, Linda Zhao, Minyuan Zhao, 07 April 2019

The conventional wisdom that privatisation of state-owned enterprises reduces their dependence on the state and yields positive economic benefits has not always been borne out by empirical work. Using a comprehensive dataset from China, this column shows that privatised SOEs continue to benefit from government support in the form of low-interest loans and subsidies relative to private enterprises that have never been state-owned. Although there are clear improvements in performance post-privatisation, privatised SOEs continue to significantly under-perform compared to private firms.

Jeffrey L. Furman, Markus Nagler, Martin Watzinger, 31 March 2019

It is a concern amongst policymakers that the disclosure component of patents is insufficient in stimulating subsequent innovation. Using evidence on patent trends around Patent Depository Libraries in the US, this column shows that the availability of information on prior art positively impacts innovation in the field. In the pre-internet era, these libraries helped reduce geographical barriers to knowledge diffusion.

Stefanie Stantcheva, 19 March 2019

Stefanie Stantcheva of Harvard University discusses how interaction with 'better' inventors increases knowledge and improves inventions.

Javier Miranda, Nikolas Zolas, 18 February 2019

Private households have often been disregarded as sources of invention and innovation, but evidence has begun to emerge of this sector’s importance. This column examines data from the US Patent and Trademark Office and the US Census Bureau to describe patented household innovations and characteristics of US household inventors, who are predominantly male, white, and US-born. It estimates that in between 2000 and 2011, patented household innovations generated a revenue flow of $1.7 billion, and calls for further efforts to understand the economic role of household innovations.

Pehr-Johan Norbäck, Lars Persson, Roger Svensson, 03 November 2018

Most OECD countries provide subsidies to stimulate the entry and growth of small entrepreneurial firms. This column argues that a better policy would be to combine these subsidy schemes with policies that improve the merger and acquisition market for small entrepreneurial firms, because the best strategy for such firms is to make an early entry to market to signal innovation quality and overcome asymmetry problems. Entrepreneurs would be able to create bidding competition among incumbents and receive a higher acquisition price, incentivising them to develop breakthrough innovations that will raise welfare.   

William Kerr, 26 October 2018

The US has held a very special place in terms of absorbing global talent. This column brings together various data sources to demonstrate how high-skilled immigration has transformed US innovation over the past five decades. Among the trends identified are rates of international migration rising by skill level, a huge share of skilled immigration going to the US, and a disproportionate immigration impact on the US at higher skill levels. Not surprisingly, these changes have had enormous economic impact.

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Callum Wilkie, 01 October 2018

Economically disadvantaged regions are, arguably by definition, less innovative than advantaged regions. But not all economically disadvantaged areas are the same. This column compares the innovative capacity of economically less-developed areas in North America and Europe, and reveals that less-developed regions in Canada and the US are far more innovative than their European counterparts. Key factors affecting innovation processes include the ability to absorb skilled young labour into the workforce and the types of knowledge flows that are capitalised upon. 

Lee Branstetter, Britta Glennon, J. Bradford Jensen, 21 August 2018

US firms have begun shifting R&D investment towards non-traditional destinations such as China, India, and Israel. The column argues that this is a response to a shortage in software and IT-related human capital within the US. When US multinationals are able to import talent or export R&D work, this reinforces US technological leadership. Conversely, politically engineered constraints on this response will undermine the competitiveness of US-based firms.

Bronwyn Hall, 19 July 2018

Patent protection is assumed to benefit entrepreneurs seeking investment, because patents signal quality and are an asset that can be resold if a startup fails. This column argues that the evidence for these benefits is inconclusive. Notably, patents acquired in a secondary market may be used for rent-seeking, rather than to incentivise innovation.

Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Ari Hyytinen, Otto Toivanen, 23 December 2017

Innovation is a crucial element of modern societies, but who becomes an inventor? This column shows that parental income affects the probability of someone becoming an inventor, but that this impact is greatly diminished once parents’ socioeconomic status, parents’ education, and the individual's IQ are controlled for. Overall, the results suggest a prominent role for parental education and for IQ in explaining an individual’s probability of inventing.

Katja Mann, Lukas Püttmann, 07 December 2017

Researchers disagree over whether automation is creating or destroying jobs. This column introduces a new indicator of automation constructed by applying a machine learning algorithm to classify patents, and uses the result to investigate which US regions and industries are most exposed to automation. This indicator suggests that automation has created more jobs in the US than it has destroyed.

Monika Schnitzer, Martin Watzinger, 31 October 2017

Conventional wisdom holds that venture capital-financed start-up companies generate positive spillovers for other businesses, but these spillovers are hard to measure accurately. This column uses a broader analysis of patent spillovers than previous studies to argue that venture capital-financed start-up companies help established companies innovate, and play a significant role in the commercialisation of new technologies. This suggests that subsidies for venture capital investment should be at least as large as current R&D subsidies.

Mark Schankerman, Florian Schuett, 27 October 2017

Critics of the patent system argue that ineffective patent office screening is posing an impediment to innovation. This column develops a model to examine the effect of examination, fees, and court litigation on patent quality. Results show that frontloading fees (i.e. higher fees for application versus approval), capping litigation costs, and intensifying patent office examination all lead to increases in social welfare. Simulations calibrated with existing data suggest that about 65-85% of granted patents are invalid.



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