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Military R&D and Innovation

In: Handbook of the Economics of Innovation


  • Mowery, David C.


Government military establishments have for generations exerted an important influence on technological change in most industrial economies. Nevertheless, although the influence of military activity (waging wars, acquiring weapons, training personnel) on technological change has been pervasive for centuries, the channels through which military activity influences innovation have changed significantly, just as the structure and scale of national military establishments and the industrial societies within which they operate have changed. The extensive literature on the role of the military in technological change is largely devoted to the second half of the twentieth century, a period characterized by massive expenditures by the governments of both industrial and centrally planned economies on military R&D and procurement in “peacetime.” This chapter devotes the bulk of its discussion to the post-1945 period, and within this period, focuses mainly on US military R&D programs. There is very little comparative work on the influence (or lack of same) on innovation of military R&D programs supported by other NATO governments, which raises fundamental questions about the generalizability of the US experience that forms the foundation of this survey. One of the greatest gaps in the vast literature on military R&D and innovation is the modest scope of comparative work.

Suggested Citation

  • Mowery, David C., 2010. "Military R&D and Innovation," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, in: Bronwyn H. Hall & Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 1219-1256, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:haechp:v2_1219
    DOI: 10.1016/S0169-7218(10)02013-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1988. "The Private R&D Investment Response to Federal Design and Technical Competitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 550-559, June.
    2. Cowan, Robin & Foray, Dominique, 1995. "Quandaries in the economics of dual technologies and spillovers from military to civilian research and development," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 851-868, November.
    3. Goolsbee, Austan, 1998. "Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 298-302, May.
    4. David, Paul A. & Hall, Bronwyn H., 2000. "Heart of Darkness: Modeling Public-Private Funding Interactions Inside the R&D Black Box," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5g29w0xq, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    5. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. David M. Levy & Nestor E. Terleckyj, 1983. "Effects of Government R&D on Private R&D Investment and Productivity: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 551-561, Autumn.
    8. David, Paul A. & Hall, Bronwyn H. & Toole, Andrew A., 2000. "Is public R&D a complement or substitute for private R&D? A review of the econometric evidence," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4-5), pages 497-529, April.
    9. Clive Trebilcock, 1969. "“Spin-Off” in British Economic History: Armaments and Industry, 1760-1914," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 22(3), pages 474-490, December.
    10. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "R&D and Productivity Growth at the Industry Level: Is There Still a Relationship?," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 213-240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Erik Poole & Jean-Thomas Bernard, 1992. "Defence Innovation Stock and Total Factor Productivity," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 25(2), pages 438-452, May.
    12. Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Effect of Government Funding on Private Industrial Research and Development: A Re-assessment," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(1), pages 97-104, September.
    13. Furman, Jeffrey L. & Porter, Michael E. & Stern, Scott, 2002. "The determinants of national innovative capacity," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 899-933, August.
    14. Richard R. Nelson, 1959. "The Simple Economics of Basic Scientific Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67, pages 297-297.
    15. Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1984. "The Relationship between Federal Contract R&D and Company R&D," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 73-78, May.
    16. Cowan, Robin, 1990. "Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study in Technological Lock-in," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(3), pages 541-567, September.
    17. Reppy, Judith, 1977. "Defense department payments for `company-financed' R&D," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 396-410, October.
    18. Ben R. Martin, 2003. "The Changing Social Contract for Science and the Evolution of the University," Chapters, in: Aldo Geuna & Ammon J. Salter & W. Edward Steinmueller (ed.), Science and Innovation, chapter 1, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    19. Clive Trebilcock, 1973. "British Armaments and European Industrialization, 1890–1914," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 26(2), pages 254-272, May.
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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Mariana Mazzucato & Caetano C.R. Penna, 2014. "Beyond Market Failures: The Market Creating and Shaping Roles of State Investment Banks," Working Papers Series 7, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    2. Robinson, Douglas K.R. & Mazzucato, Mariana, 2019. "The evolution of mission-oriented policies: Exploring changing market creating policies in the US and European space sector," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 936-948.
    3. Lee, Jun Gon & Park, Min Jae, 2019. "Rethinking the national defense R&D innovation system for latecomer: Defense R&D governance matrix," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 1-11.
    4. Czarnitzki, Dirk & Hünermund, Paul & Moshgbar, Nima, 2018. "Public procurement as policy instrument for innovation," ZEW Discussion Papers 18-001, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    5. Kim, Yohan & Lee, Joosung & Ahn, Jaemyung, 2019. "Innovation towards sustainable technologies: A socio-technical perspective on accelerating transition to aviation biofuel," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 317-329.
    6. Hall, Bronwyn H. & Helmers, Christian, 2013. "Innovation and diffusion of clean/green technology: Can patent commons help?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 33-51.
    7. Coccia, Mario, 2018. "A Theory of the General Causes of Long Waves: War, General Purpose Technologies, and Economic Change," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 287-295.

    More about this item


    aircraft; government policy; information technology; innovation; Internet; machine tools; military budgets; military R&D; nuclear power; semiconductors;

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy


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