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.

Kenta Ikeuchi, Kazuyuki Motohashi, Ryuichi Tamura, Naotoshi Tsukada, 28 June 2017

There is growing interest in measuring the scientific aspects of industrial innovation and performance to understand the economic impact of publicly funded R&D. This column presents new indicators for science-industry linkages in Japan based on a novel dataset combining academic research paper data, patent data, and economic census data. It finds that the academic sector is getting more involved in patenting activities, and that scientific knowledge generated in the sector is being utilised not only in science-based industries, but also in many others.

Hidemichi Fujii, Shunsuke Managi, 16 June 2017

Patent applications are a good indicator of the nature of technological progress. This column compares trends in applications for artificial intelligence patents in Japan and the US. One finding is that the Japanese market appears to be less attractive for artificial intelligence technology application, perhaps due to its stricter regulations on the collection and use of data.

Ufuk Akcigit, John Grigsby, Tom Nicholas, 27 March 2017

The impact of immigration on US economic development has become a controversial issue in recent policy debates. This column, arising from a study linking Federal Census data with patent records, examines the historical role of immigrant inventors in the process of US technological innovation. Immigrant inventors appear to have been of central importance to American innovation during the 19th and 20th centuries, both through their own inventive activity and through their influence on domestic inventors.

William Maloney, Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 24 March 2017

The generation and diffusion of scientific knowledge and technology are assumed to be drivers of modern economic growth, but there is a lack of firm empirical evidence of this. This column uses the first detailed data on the density of engineers in the western hemisphere to argue that historical differences in innovative capacity, as captured by the density of engineers in 1880, explain a significant fraction of the Great Divergence. The results confirm the imperative of developing higher-order human capital.

David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, Gary P. Pisano, Pian Shu, 20 March 2017

The discussion of the decline in US manufacturing during the 2016 presidential election campaign largely focused on job losses. This column examines the effects of Chinese import competition on another metric for the health of the US manufacturing sector – innovation.  Firms whose industries were exposed to a greater surge of Chinese import competition from 1991 to 2007 experienced a significant decline in their patent output as well as their R&D expenditures. While politicians’ ‘obsession’ with manufacturing is primarily due to job losses, an accompanying reduction in innovation may well affect economic growth in the longer term.

Martin Watzinger, Thomas Fackler, Markus Nagler, Monika Schnitzer, 19 February 2017

There is growing concern that dominant companies use patents strategically to keep competitors from entering their market. This column uses the landmark 1956 Consent Decree against Bell Labs to explore whether antitrust enforcement is an effective remedy to the problem. Results show that patents can indeed be used as an entry barrier for start-up firms, and that the compulsory licensing of patents can foster market entry and innovation. However, compulsory licensing is found to be ineffective in markets where dominant firms have other means of market foreclosure.

Daron Acemoğlu, Ufuk Akcigit, William Kerr, 20 January 2017

Innovation is typically seen as a cumulative process, with new technologies building on existing knowledge - but our knowledge of how progress in a specific area is influenced by knowledge in other, ‘upstream’ areas is limited. Using US patent data, this column identifies a stable ‘innovation network’ that serves as a conduit for cumulative knowledge development. Technological advances in one field can advance progress in multiple neighbouring fields, but will have a stronger influence on more closely related areas.

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