Lucia Foster, Cheryl Grim, John Haltiwanger, Zoltan Wolf, 17 June 2018

Measuring innovative activity itself, rather than proxies such as R&D expenditures or patent volumes, is difficult. This column shows how patterns of economic activity can be used to measure increased innovative activity within firms. This ‘searching for black holes’ approach can be used to better understand the connection between innovation and productivity dispersion and growth.

Peter Jensen, Markus Lampe, Paul Sharp, Christian Skovsgaard, 08 June 2018

Denmark is a paragon of economic development because it rapidly modernised its agriculture 150 years ago by using technology and cooperatives. This column argues that Denmark's development story has in fact been misrepresented. Rapid agricultural development was the end of a process begun by landed elites in the 18th century. It may be a mistake to cite the case of Denmark to argue that a country with a lot of peasants and cows can cooperate its way out of underdevelopment.

Georg Duernecker, Berthold Herrendorf, Akos Valentinyi, 16 May 2018

Baumol argued that structural change may lead to a productivity slowdown due to a reallocation of production to service industries with low productivity growth. This column uses a new framework to estimate the effects of Baumol’s disease on future productivity growth in the US. The results suggest that future structural change will not reduce productivity much further thanks to substitutability within the broader service sector.

Antonio Fatás, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 07 May 2018

Economists have been dismissive of cryptocurrencies, but fintech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts continue to see their disruptive potential. This column considers the theoretical and practical arguments on both sides of the debate. Traditional currencies are overwhelmingly superior as forms of money, and cryptocurrencies’ advantage in terms of lax regulation is unlikely to last. There remains, however, ample potential for innovation in payment systems.

Giammario Impullitti, Omar Licandro, 29 April 2018

Globalisation discontents blame trade for destroying jobs and slashing wages, while its supporters rebut that trade openness generates aggregate gains that can potentially benefit all. However, assessing the gains from trade represents a long-standing challenge for economists. This column argues that that accounting for firms' innovation responses doubles the gains from trade obtained in static quantitative models.

Diego Comin, 04 April 2018

Europe currently faces multiple challenges on economic, demographic, and environmental fronts. All of these can be addressed by innovations in technology and process. This video discusses some of the outcomes of the EU-FRAME mid-term conference, outlining ways in which innovation policy can be designed so as to best serve welfare and productivity across all actors. This conference took place in March 2018 at ZEW, Mannheim.

CEPR is a partner of the FRAME Project, which is coordinated by ZEW. The CEPR team is led by Diego Comin, a Research Fellow in its Macroeconomics and Growth Programme. The FRAME project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the grant agreement No #727073.

Philippe Aghion, 27 March 2018

Many economists argue that fixing inequality should not come at the expense of innovation. Philippe Aghion discusses the role innovation has to play in fostering growth and social mobility. This video was recorded at the RES annual conference in Spring 2015.

Atsushi Nakajima, 27 March 2018

As the global economy continues to recover, trade frictions between advanced and emerging economies have started to appear. This column considers how Japan can continue its recent trend of economic expansion by addressing domestic growth opportunities while remaining resilient to international trade challenges. Both technological innovation and new business models are key to achieving this.

Stephen Cecchetti, Kim Schoenholtz, 22 February 2018

Investment is shifting from tangible physical assets to intangible goods like software, data, and R&D. This column analyses the impact of this shift on the structure of firm financing. The financial system’s shift from public to private equity is, on the whole, an encouraging reflection of its response to the changing needs of the economy.

Alessandro Iaria, Carlo Schwarz, Fabian Waldinger, 26 January 2018

Access to existing knowledge fuels basic scientific progress and is key to the development of new technologies. This column studies how the decline in scientific cooperation that occurred during and after WWI affected science and innovation. The interruption of international knowledge flows led to stark declines in both the volume and quality of scientific production. This points to the merits of opening up access to scientific journals and of discerning what constitutes frontier research.

Ravi Kanbur, 08 January 2018

Technological innovation is broadly accepted as a driving force behind diverging wage trends in the last three decades. If this is set to continue, policymakers must choose how to respond to the ensuing income inequality. This column assesses two established policy response ideas – state-sponsored formal education, and tax and transfer mechanisms – and postulates a third, namely, that the pace and distributional effects of technological change should themselves be policy goals. A policy intervention that would make innovation more labour intensive would be the most powerful response of all.

Michel Serafinelli, Guido Tabellini, 06 January 2018

Innovation is often concentrated in certain geographic areas, or ‘creative clusters’. This column uses novel data on famous births to explore the dynamics of creativity in European cities between the 11th and 19th centuries. The results show that creativity tends to precede economic prosperity, and that city institutions that protect personal and economic freedoms are conducive to radical innovation in a variety of domains.

Alex Bell, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, John Van Reenen, 24 December 2017

Relatively little is known about the factors that induce people to become inventors. Using data on the lives of over one million inventors in the US, this column sheds light on what policies can be most effective in increasing innovation. In particular, it shows that increasing exposure to innovation among women, minorities, and children from low-income families may have greater potential to spark innovation and growth than traditional approaches such as reducing tax rates.

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.

Xavi Cirera, Edwin A. Goñi Pacchioni, William Maloney, 29 November 2017

Innovation is widely seen as central to the growth of developing countries, and available evidence suggests that the returns to R&D investment should be extremely high.  Yet low-income countries invest very little. This column suggests that this is due to the increasing scarcity of a wide array of factors complementary to innovation, and that this explains the lack of convergence of low-income countries to the technological frontier.    

Christian Helmers, Henry Overman, 25 November 2017

Highly localised research infrastructure investment, such as in the Large Hadron Collider, often leads to major scientific breakthroughs, but there is little evidence on the longer-term and wider geographical impacts on scientific output. This column uses the example of the UK’s Diamond Light Source to study the impact of large facilities on where scientific research is conducted. Not only do such investments substantially increase directly related research in the local area, they also create spillovers on unrelated research through knowledge sharing.

Erika Färnstrand Damsgaard, Per Hjertstrand, Pehr-Johan Norbäck, Lars Persson, Helder Vasconcelos, 23 November 2017

Most developed economies provide significant subsidies to small businesses to encourage innovation. This column argues that while subsidies to reduce entry costs may increase entrepreneurial entry, they can also lead to a reduction in the likelihood of ‘breakthrough’ inventions. Entry costs, which are incurred when an innovation project is successful, prompt small firms and entrepreneurs to pursue high-risk, high-reward innovations.

Saul Lach, Zvika Neeman, Mark Schankerman, 03 November 2017

Understanding how the design of policy to support R&D influences its effectiveness, and how loan programmes should be optimally designed to maximise welfare, is critical to formulating effective, cost-efficient policies. This column uses mechanism design to analyse the optimal structure of R&D loan programmes. The results suggest that optimal policies should ‘target the middle’, as low-risk projects will be funded by the market and high-risk projects are not likely to generate sufficient social payoff to justify support. Moreover, the optimal policy is likely to differ across technology areas, and between industrialised and emerging economies.

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.

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