Nanotech Database

Article Title:
The idiosyncrasy and dynamism of technologicalinnovation across industries: patent citation analysis

Park, Yongtae

Journal Information:
Technology in Society
Vol. 27, Num. 0


A pattern or structure for technological innovation is difficult to discern: innovation appears to be unpredictable across industrial sectors and variable across time as well. Park et. al. investigate these patterns closley, looking for patterns of relationships among industries, including nanotechnology. Using patent citation analysis applied to the the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) patent database, they note idisyncratic and dynamic differences between conventional manufacturing sectors and science-based sectors. They ask three questions: "(a) If the patterns of technological innovation are dissimilar among industries, what are the main differences in terms of industry and/or technology characteristics? (b) If the patterns of innovation are unstable and dynamic, what are the differences or changing trends over time? (c) If industrial sectors are interconnected in a technological network, what is the overall shape of the network, and what are the roles of industries in the network?"

The NBER allows researchers to categorize by year and technology category as well as by other patents cited. Park et. al use a modified version of Pavitt's technology classification scheme. They consider "innovativeness" as measured by the mean value of the number of patents held by all the firms in a particular sector. Their research offered four findings:

  • "Surprisingly, we found no evidence that overall innovativeness has been increasing. Yes, the absolute volume of innovations and total number of patents has increased for all industries. However, the relative degree of innovativenessaverage number of patents per firmhas been stable except of some sector-specific variations. Regardless of periods in time, the science-based sectors exhibit a higher degree ofinnovativeness as compared to conventional manufacturing sectors. In particular, the supplier-dominated sector (representing traditional agricultural or light industries) consistently shows the lowest degree of innovativeness. The reason seems quite straightforward: the industries in science-based sectors are characterized by a relatively higher degree of R & D intensity and responsiveness to market changes, which in turn leads to a higher degree of innovativeness.
  • Among conventional sectors, the scale-intensive sector tends to be more innovative vis-a`-vis the supplier-dominated and specialized-supplier sectors. This implies that patent-based innovations may be affected by firm size, which supports Schumpeters famous hypothesis [26], that is, the larger is the firm size, the more innovations are produced.
  • Emerging NT, BT, and IT industries have exhibited a growth trend since the mid-1980s. This trend is more apparent in the science-based sector. While the IT and BT industries have emerged in recent years as they become more knowledge-based, thechemical science industry is declining as it becomes more production-based. Even in the conventional sector, the specialized-supplier sector has shown an increasing pattern of innovativeness, while the supplier-dominated sector has declined."

    To explain these findings, they suggest that science based industries tended to be more open, decentralized and connected rather than closed and hierarchical. The scope of claims (the number of claims of each patent) is relatively broad in the nanotechnology industry. The flow of information between companies (using patents) is also tracked, with information-based science and chemical-science based industries contributing most to the flow of knowledge. Finally, biotechnology appears to be a closed sector, citing its own patents rather than patents from other industries.