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Grilichesian Breakthroughs: Inventions of Methods of Inventing and Firm Entry in Nanotechnology

In: Contributions in Memory of Zvi Griliches


  • Michael L. Darby
  • Lynne G. Zucker


Metamorphic progress (productivity growth much faster than average) is often driven by Grilichesian inventions of methods of inventing. For hybrid seed corn, the enabling invention was double-cross hybridization yielding highly productive seed corn that was not self-propagating. Biotechnology stemmed from recombinant DNA. Scanning probe microscopy is a key enabling discovery for nanotechnology. Nanotech publishing and patenting has grown phenomenally. Over half of nanotech authors are in the U.S. and 58 percent of those are in ten metropolitan areas. Like biotechnology, we find that firms enter nanotechnology where and when scientists are publishing breakthrough academic articles. A high average education level is also important, but the past level of venture-capital activity in a region is not. Breakthroughs in nanoscale science and engineering appear frequently to be transferred to industrial application with the active participation of discovering academic scientists. The need for top scientists' involvement provided important appropriability for biotechnology inventions, and a similar process appears to have started in nanotechnology.
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Suggested Citation

  • Michael L. Darby & Lynne G. Zucker, 2010. "Grilichesian Breakthroughs: Inventions of Methods of Inventing and Firm Entry in Nanotechnology," NBER Chapters, in: Contributions in Memory of Zvi Griliches, pages 143-164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12231

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard Jensen & Marie Thursby, 1998. "Proofs and Prototypes for Sale: The Tale of University Licensing," NBER Working Papers 6698, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • L63 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Microelectronics; Computers; Communications Equipment


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