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Nanotechnology and the Emergence of a General Purpose Technology

Author

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  • Stuart J. H. Graham
  • Maurizio Iacopetta

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 widelyadopted 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Stuart J. H. Graham & Maurizio Iacopetta, 2014. "Nanotechnology and the Emergence of a General Purpose Technology," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 115-116, pages 25-55.
  • Handle: RePEc:adr:anecst:y:2014:i:115-116:p:25-55
    DOI: 10.15609/annaeconstat2009.115-116.25
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    File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15609/annaeconstat2009.115-116.25
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    Cited by:

    1. Kreuchauff, Florian & Teichert, Nina, 2014. "Nanotechnology as general purpose technology," Working Paper Series in Economics 53, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Business Engineering.
    2. Clifford Bekar & Kenneth Carlaw & Richard Lipsey, 2016. "General Purpose Technologies in Theory, Applications and Controversy: A Review," Discussion Papers dp16-15, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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