Measuring Technological Innovation over the Long Run
NBER Working Paper No. 25266
We use textual analysis of high-dimensional data from patent documents to create new indicators of technological innovation. We identify significant patents based on textual similarity of a given patent to previous and subsequent work: these patents are distinct from previous work but are related to subsequent innovations. Our measure of patent significance is predictive of future citations and correlates strongly with measures of market value. We identify breakthrough innovations as the most significant patents – those in the right tail of our measure – to construct indices of technological change at the aggregate, sectoral, and firm level. Our technology indices span two centuries (1840-2010) and cover innovation by private and public firms, as well as non-profit organizations and the US government. These indices capture the evolution of technological waves over a long time span and are strong predictors of productivity at the aggregate, sectoral, and firm level.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25266