Inventors' Explorations Across Technology Domains

Design Science, Vol. 3, 2017, E20

29 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2017 Last revised: 8 Jan 2018

See all articles by Jeff Alstott

Jeff Alstott

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - MIT Media Laboratory; Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Giorgio Triulzi

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - School of Management

Bowen Yan

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Jianxi Luo

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Date Written: September 12, 2017

Abstract

Technologies are created through the collective efforts of individual inventors. Understanding inventors' behaviors may thus enable predicting invention, guiding design efforts or improving technology policy. We examined data from 2.8 million inventors' 3.9 million patents and found most patents are created by "explorers": inventors who move between different technology domains during their careers. We mapped the space of latent relatedness between technology domains and found explorers were 250 times more likely to enter technology domains that were highly related to the domains of their previous patents, compared to an unrelated domain. The great regularity of inventors' behavior enabled accurate prediction of individual inventors' future movements: a model trained on just 5 years of data predicted inventors' explorations 30 years later with a log-loss below 0.01. Inventors entering their most related domains was associated with patenting up to 40% more in the new domain, but with reduced citations per patent. These findings may be instructive for inventors exploring design directions, and useful for organizations or governments in forecasting or directing technological change.

Keywords: technology, invention, design, prediction, performance, networks

Suggested Citation

Alstott, Jeff and Triulzi, Giorgio and Yan, Bowen and Luo, Jianxi, Inventors' Explorations Across Technology Domains (September 12, 2017). Design Science, Vol. 3, 2017, E20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2936709 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2936709

Jeff Alstott (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - MIT Media Laboratory ( email )

20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) ( email )

20 Dover Drive
Singapore, 138682
Singapore

Giorgio Triulzi

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - School of Management ( email )

Carrera Primera # 18A-12
Bogotá
Colombia

Bowen Yan

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) ( email )

20 Dover Drive
Singapore, 138682
Singapore

Jianxi Luo

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) ( email )

8 Somapah Rd
Singapore, 487372
Singapore

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
66
Abstract Views
569
rank
484,862
PlumX Metrics