Nanotechnology and the Emergence of a General Purpose Technology

Annals of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 115/116, pp. 5-35 (Dec. 2014).

31 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2009 Last revised: 29 Oct 2015

See all articles by Stuart J.H. Graham

Stuart J.H. Graham

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business

Maurizio Iacopetta

OFCE (Centre de recherche en Economie de Sciences Po); SKEMA Business School - Sophia Antipolis Campus

Date Written: January 1, 2009

Abstract

This article examines how closely nanotechnology resembles a general purpose technology (GPT). Using patented nanotechnology inventions during 1975-2006, we test for characteristics of GPTs identified in the prior literature, and find evidence that nanotechnology shows both “pervasive” adoption and “spawning” of follow-on innovation. Offering a methodological contribution, we employ concentration indexes such as the Gini index and Lorenz curve to construct “knowledge dissemination curves” for different technologies, thereby providing evidence that nanotechnology shares relevant characteristics with other GPTs. Using an entirely new dataset, we use three different definitions of a “nanotechnology patent” and calculate patent generality indexes, finding that nanotechnology patents are significantly more likely to be referenced across technology space than are patents in information technology, another widely-adopted GPT. In another contribution, we suggest that innovative materials may demonstrate the characteristics of a GPT, and provide a historical parallel between the advancement of steel technology in the 19th Century with that of nanotechnology in the present day.

Keywords: Nanotechnology, General Purpose Technology, Patent Analysis

JEL Classification: O30, O33, O34

Suggested Citation

Graham, Stuart J.H. and Iacopetta, Maurizio, Nanotechnology and the Emergence of a General Purpose Technology (January 1, 2009). Annals of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 115/116, pp. 5-35 (Dec. 2014).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1334376 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1334376

Stuart J.H. Graham (Contact Author)

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business ( email )

800 West Peachtree St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30308
United States
404-385-0953 (Phone)
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HOME PAGE: http://https://www.scheller.gatech.edu/graham

Maurizio Iacopetta

OFCE (Centre de recherche en Economie de Sciences Po)

31 rue Croix des Petits Champs
75049 Paris Cedex 01
France

SKEMA Business School - Sophia Antipolis Campus ( email )

60 rue Dostoïevski
Sophia Antipolis, 06902
France

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