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The Geography of Unconventional Innovation

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  • Enrico Berkes
  • Ruben Gaetani

Abstract

Using a newly assembled data set of US patents, we show that innovation activity is less concentrated in high-density locations than commonly believed. Yet, inventions based on atypical combinations of knowledge are indeed more prevalent in high-density urban centres. To interpret this relation, we propose that informal interactions in densely populated areas help knowledge flows between distant fields, but are less relevant for flows between close fields. We build a model of innovation in a spatial economy that endogenously generates the pattern observed in the data: specialised clusters emerge in low-density areas, whereas high-density locations diversify and produce unconventional ideas.

Suggested Citation

  • Enrico Berkes & Ruben Gaetani, 2021. "The Geography of Unconventional Innovation," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 131(636), pages 1466-1514.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:econjl:v:131:y:2021:i:636:p:1466-1514.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/ej/ueaa111
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    Cited by:

    1. Tubiana, Matteo & Miguelez, Ernest & Moreno, Rosina, 2022. "In knowledge we trust: Learning-by-interacting and the productivity of inventors," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(1).
    2. William R. Kerr & Frederic Robert-Nicoud, 2020. "Tech Clusters," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 34(3), pages 50-76, Summer.
    3. Christopher Esposito, 2021. "The Geography of Breakthrough Innovation in the United States over the 20th Century," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 2126, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Sep 2021.
    4. Tom Kemeny & Sergio Petralia & Michael Storper, 2022. "Disruptive innovation and spatial inequality," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 2211, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jul 2022.
    5. Milad Abbasiharofteh & Dieter F. Kogler & Balazs Lengyel, 2020. "Atypical combination of technologies in regional co-inventor networks," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 2055, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Nov 2020.
    6. Diemer, Andreas & Regan, Tanner, 2022. "No inventor is an island: Social connectedness and the geography of knowledge flows in the US," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(2).
    7. Diane Coyle, 2021. "The idea of productivity," Working Papers 003, The Productivity Institute.
    8. Crescenzi, Riccardo & Iammarino, Simona & Ioramashvili, Carolin & Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés & Storper, Michael, 2020. "The geography of innovation and development: global spread and local hotspots," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 105116, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Enrico Berkes & Olivier Deschênes & Ruben Gaetani & Jeffrey Lin & Christopher Severen, 2020. "Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic," Working Papers 20-46, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    10. Ron Boschma & Ernest Miguelez & Rosina Moreno & Diego B. Ocampo-Corrales, 2021. "Technological breakthroughs in European regions: the role of related and unrelated combinations," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 2118, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jun 2021.
    11. Higham, Kyle & Contisciani, Martina & De Bacco, Caterina, 2022. "Multilayer patent citation networks: A comprehensive analytical framework for studying explicit technological relationships," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 179(C).
    12. Sandro Montresor & Gianluca Orsatti & Francesco Quatraro, 2020. "Technological novelty and key enabling technologies: Evidence from European regions," Discussion Paper series in Regional Science & Economic Geography 2020-05, Gran Sasso Science Institute, Social Sciences, revised Sep 2020.

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