NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Information Technology and the Distribution of Inventive Activity

Chris Forman, Avi Goldfarb, Shane Greenstein

NBER Working Paper No. 20036
Issued in April 2014
NBER Program(s):   PR

We examine the relationship between the diffusion of advanced internet technology and the geographic concentration of invention, as measured by patents. First, we show that patenting became more concentrated from the early 1990s to the early 2000s and, similarly, that counties that were leaders in patenting in the early 1990s produced relatively more patents by the early 2000s. Second, we compare the extent of invention in counties that were leaders in internet adoption to those that were not. We see little difference in the growth rate of patenting between leaders and laggards in internet adoption, on average. However, we find that the rate of patent growth was faster among counties who were not leaders in patenting in the early 1990s but were leaders in internet adoption by 2000, suggesting that the internet helped stem the trend towards more geographic concentration. We show that these results are largely driven by patents filed by distant collaborators rather than non-collaborative patents or patents by non-distant collaborators, suggesting low cost long-distance digital communication as a potential mechanism.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20036

Forthcoming: Information Technology and the Distribution of Inventive Activity, Chris Forman, Avi Goldfarb, Shane Greenstein. in The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy, Jaffe and Jones. 2014

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