IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Innovation and Foreign Technology in Italy,1861-2011


  • Federico Barbiellini Amidei

    () (Bank of Italy)

  • John Cantwell

    () (Rutgers University)

  • Anna Spadavecchia

    () (University of Reading)


The paper explores the long run evolution of Italy's performance in technological innovation as a function of international technology transfer, reconstructing the different phases and dimensions of Italian innovative activity, tracking the transfer of foreign technological knowledge through a number of channels, analysing the impact of imported technology. The study is based on a newly constructed dataset, over the 1861-2009 period, composed of variables related to: innovation activity performance; foreign technology transfer; domestic absorptive and innovative capability. The analysis highlights, also by econometric assessment, the significant contribution of foreign technology both to innovation activity results and to productivity growth. Differences across channels of technology transfer and historical phases emerge, also in connection with the evolution of human capital endowment and domestic innovative capacity. Machinery imports contributed positively both to innovation activity and to productivity growth; inward FDI contributed positively to productivity growth, but not to indigenous innovation activity; the accumulation of technical human capital fuelled both. In the long Italian Golden Age, for the first time the association of foreign technological knowledge with indigenous innovation processes strengthened productivity significantly. More recently instead the dismal productivity growth is negatively associated with formalised innovation activity under-performance and reduced imports of disembodied technology

Suggested Citation

  • Federico Barbiellini Amidei & John Cantwell & Anna Spadavecchia, 2011. "Innovation and Foreign Technology in Italy,1861-2011," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 07, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdi:workqs:qse_7

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mendonca, Sandro & Pereira, Tiago Santos & Godinho, Manuel Mira, 2004. "Trademarks as an indicator of innovation and industrial change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(9), pages 1385-1404, November.
    2. Federico Barbiellini Amidei & Andrea Goldstein & Marcella Spadoni, 2010. "European acquisitions in the United States: re-examining Olivetti-Underwood fifty years later," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 2, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    3. Petra Moser, 2005. "How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World's Fairs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1214-1236, September.
    4. John Cantwell & John H Dunning & Sarianna M Lundan, 2010. "An evolutionary approach to understanding international business activity: The co-evolution of MNEs and the institutional environment," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 41(4), pages 567-586, May.
    5. Fagerberg, Jan, 1987. "A technology gap approach to why growth rates differ," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2-4), pages 87-99, August.
    6. Antonelli, Cristiano, 1989. "A failure-inducement model of research and development expenditure : Italian evidence from the early 1980s," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 159-180, October.
    7. Nelson, Richard R. & Sampat, Bhaven N., 2001. "Making sense of institutions as a factor shaping economic performance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 31-54, January.
    8. Pier Paolo Patrucco, 2005. "The emergence of technology systems: knowledge production and distribution in the case of the Emilian plastics district," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(1), pages 37-56, January.
    9. Antonelli, Cristiano & Marchionatti, Roberto, 1998. "Technological and Organisational Change in a Process of Industrial Rejuvenation: The Case of the Italian Cotton Textile Industry," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 1-18, January.
    10. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-598.
    11. Richard R. Nelson, 1982. "The Role of Knowledge in R&D Efficiency," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(3), pages 453-470.
    12. Broadberry, Stephen & Giordano, Claire & Zollino, Francesco, 2011. "A Sectoral Analysis of Italy's Development: 1861 -2010," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 62, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    13. Giuseppe Berta & Fabrizio Onida, 2011. "Old and new Italian multinational firms," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 15, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    14. Russo, Margherita, 1985. "Technical change and the industrial district: The role of interfirm relations in the growth and transformation of ceramic tile production in Italy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 329-343, December.
    15. John Cantwell, 1987. "The Reorganization of European Industries After Integration: Selected Evidence on the Role of Multinational Enterprise Activities," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(2), pages 127-151, December.
    16. Giovanni Dosi & Keith Pavitt & Luc Soete, 1990. "The Economics of Technical Change and International Trade," LEM Book Series, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy, number dosietal-1990.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Giordano, Claire & Giugliano, Ferdinando, 2015. "A tale of two Fascisms: Labour productivity growth and competition policy in Italy, 1911–1951," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 25-38.
    2. Stefano Lucarelli & Roberto Romano, 2016. "The Italian Crisis within the European Crisis. The Relevance of the Technological Foreign Constraint," World Economic Review, World Economics Association, vol. 2016(6), pages 1-12, February.
    3. Stefano Lucarelli & Daniela Palma & Roberto Romano, 2013. "Quando gli investimenti rappresentano un vincolo. Contributo alla discussione sulla crisi italiana nella crisi internazionale," Moneta e Credito, Economia civile, vol. 66(262), pages 167-203.
    4. Nuvolari, Alessandro & Vasta, Michelangelo, 2015. "The Ghost in the Attic? The Italian National Innovation System in Historical Perspective, 1861–2011," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(02), pages 270-290, June.

    More about this item


    Italy; Technology Transfer; Innovation; Absorptive Capability; Patenting;

    JEL classification:

    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bdi:workqs:qse_7. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.