New Ideas in Invention

32 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2015 Last revised: 2 Sep 2021

See all articles by Mikko Packalen

Mikko Packalen

University of Waterloo - Department of Economics

Jay Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

A key decision in research is whether to try out new ideas or build on more established ideas. In this paper, we evaluate which type of work is more likely to spur further invention. When recent advances create superior opportunities for invention, their adoption as research inputs in the invention process promotes technological progress. The gains from pursuing such innovative research paths may, however, be very limited as new ideas are often initially raw and poorly understood. We determine idea inputs in invention based on the text of nearly every US patent granted during 1836–2010. We find that inventions that build on new ideas early are more likely to spur subsequent invention than inventions that rely on ideas of older vintage. Our results are important because they suggest a benefit from encouraging and supporting innovative research that tries out new ideas — avoiding stagnation in technological advance.

Suggested Citation

Packalen, Mikko and Bhattacharya, Jayanta, New Ideas in Invention (January 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w20922, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2558974

Mikko Packalen (Contact Author)

University of Waterloo - Department of Economics ( email )

Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
Canada

Jayanta Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research ( email )

Center for Health Policy
179 Encina Commons
Stanford, CA 94305-6019
United States
650-736-0404 (Phone)
650-723-1919 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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