Nanotechnology and the Emergence of a General Purpose Technology
Stuart J. H. Graham
Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business; Office of Chief Economist, United States Patent and Trademark Office
Georgia Institute of Technology - School of Economics
January 1, 2009
This article examines how closely nanotechnologies share some identifiable characteristics with previously-identified General Purpose Technologies [GPT]. Using US patent data from 1975-2006, we test for nanotechnology's "pervasiveness" and for the likelihood that it is spawning follow-on innovation. Introducing several methodological innovations, we employ concentration indices such as the Gini Index and Lorenz curve, and construct a "knowledge dissemination curve" [KDC] for different technologies, thereby offering evidence that nanotechnology shares GPT characteristics with other candidates like information technologies [IT]. We also for the first time use three different definitions of a "nanotechnology patent" and calculate "generality" indices, finding that nanotechnology patents are significantly more general than are IT patents. In a further contribution, we suggest that materials - principally steel - may demonstrate the characteristics of a GPT, and provide a historical parallel between the advancement of steel technology and nanotechnology.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: Nanotechnology, General Purpose Technologies, Patent Analysis
JEL Classification: O30, O33, O14working papers series
Date posted: January 29, 2009 ; Last revised: October 30, 2009
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