Inventing the Endless Frontier: The Effects of the World War Ii Research Effort on Post-War Innovation

58 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020 Last revised: 19 Apr 2021

See all articles by Daniel P. Gross

Daniel P. Gross

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research

Bhaven N. Sampat

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

During World War II, the U.S. government launched an unprecedented effort to mobilize science for war: the newly-established Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) entered thousands of R&D contracts with industrial and academic contractors, spending one to two orders of magnitude more than what the government was previously investing in science. In this paper, we study the long-run effects of the OSRD-supported research effort on U.S. invention. Using data on all OSRD contracts, we show that these investments had large effects on the direction and location of U.S. invention and high-tech industrial employment, setting in motion agglomeration forces which shaped the technology clusters of the postwar era. Our results demonstrate the effects of a large, mission-driven government R&D program on the growth of domestic technology clusters and long-run technological progress.

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Suggested Citation

Gross, Daniel P. and Sampat, Bhaven N., Inventing the Endless Frontier: The Effects of the World War Ii Research Effort on Post-War Innovation (June 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27375, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3626875

Daniel P. Gross (Contact Author)

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

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Bhaven N. Sampat

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health ( email )

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New York, NY 10032
United States

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