IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Exploration and Exploitation in US Technological Change


  • Carvalho, Vasco M.

    (University of Cambridge)

  • Draca, Mirko

    (University of Warwick and CAGE)

  • Kuhlen, Nikolas

    (University of Cambridge and The Alan Turing Institute)


How do firms and inventors move through ‘knowledge space’ as they develop their innovations? We propose a method for tracking patterns of ‘exploration and exploitation’ in patenting behaviour in the US for the period since 1920. Our exploration measure is constructed from the text of patents and involves the use of ‘Bayesian Surprise’ to measure how different current patent-based innovations are from existing portfolios. Our results indicate that there are distinct ‘life-cycle’ patterns to firm and inventor exploration. Furthermore, exploration activity is more geographically concentrated than general patenting, but this concentration is centred outside the main hubs of patenting.

Suggested Citation

  • Carvalho, Vasco M. & Draca, Mirko & Kuhlen, Nikolas, 2021. "Exploration and Exploitation in US Technological Change," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 575, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:575

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrews, Michael J. & Whalley, Alexander, 2022. "150 years of the geography of innovation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    2. Sam Arts & Bruno Cassiman & Juan Carlos Gomez, 2018. "Text matching to measure patent similarity," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(1), pages 62-84, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Pauly, Stefan & Stipanicic, Fernando, 2021. "The creation and diffusion of knowledge: Evidence from the Jet Age," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 2112, CEPREMAP.
    2. Watzinger, Martin & Schnitzer, Monika, 2019. "Standing on the Shoulders of Science," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 215, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    3. Juranek, Steffen & Otneim, Håkon, 2021. "Using machine learning to predict patent lawsuits," Discussion Papers 2021/6, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Business and Management Science.
    4. Luca Verginer & Federica Parisi & Jeroen van Lidth de Jeude & Massimo Riccaboni, 2022. "The Impact of Acquisitions on Inventors' Turnover in the Biotechnology Industry," Papers 2203.12968,
    5. Sam Arts & Lee Fleming, 2018. "Paradise of Novelty—Or Loss of Human Capital? Exploring New Fields and Inventive Output," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(6), pages 1074-1092, December.
    6. Cesare Righi & Timothy Simcoe, 2020. "Patenting Inventions or Inventing Patents? Continuation Practice at the USPTO," NBER Working Papers 27686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Bernardo S Buarque & Ronald B Davies & Ryan M Hynes & Dieter F Kogler, 2020. "OK Computer: the creation and integration of AI in Europe," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 13(1), pages 175-192.
    8. Bergeaud Antonin & Schmidt Julia & Zago Riccardo, 2022. "Patents that Match your Standards: Firm-level Evidence on Competition and Growth," Working papers 876, Banque de France.
    9. Higham, Kyle & de Rassenfosse, Gaétan & Jaffe, Adam B., 2021. "Patent Quality: Towards a Systematic Framework for Analysis and Measurement," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(4).
    10. Christopher Kurzhals & Lorenz Graf‐Vlachy & Andreas König, 2020. "Strategic leadership and technological innovation: A comprehensive review and research agenda," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(6), pages 437-464, November.
    11. Righi, Cesare & Simcoe, Timothy, 2019. "Patent examiner specialization," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 137-148.
    12. Prithwiraj Choudhury & Dan Wang & Natalie A. Carlson & Tarun Khanna, 2019. "Machine learning approaches to facial and text analysis: Discovering CEO oral communication styles," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(11), pages 1705-1732, November.
    13. Jeffrey L. Furman & Markus Nagler & Martin Watzinger, 2021. "Disclosure and Subsequent Innovation: Evidence from the Patent Depository Library Program," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 239-270, November.
    14. Yawen Qin & Xiaozhen Qin & Haohui Chen & Xun Li & Wei Lang, 2021. "Measuring cognitive proximity using semantic analysis: A case study of China's ICT industry," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 126(7), pages 6059-6084, July.
    15. Brachtendorf, Lorenz & Gaessler, Fabian & Harhoff, Dietmar, 2020. "Truly Standard-Essential Patents? A Semantics-Based Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 14726, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Gaetan de Rassenfosse & Gabriele Pellegrino & Emilio Raiteri, 2020. "Do Patents Enable Disclosure? Evidence from the Invention Secrecy Act," Working Papers 9, Chair of Innovation and IP Policy.
    17. Holger Graf & Matthias Menter, 2022. "Public research and the quality of inventions: the role and impact of entrepreneurial universities and regional network embeddedness," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 58(2), pages 1187-1204, February.
    18. Hanlon, W.Walker & Heblich, Stephan, 2022. "History and urban economics," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    19. Nancy Kong & Uwe Dulleck & Adam B. Jaffe & Shupeng Sun & Sowmya Vajjala, 2020. "Linguistic Metrics for Patent Disclosure: Evidence from University Versus Corporate Patents," NBER Working Papers 27803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Wernsdorf, Kathrin & Nagler, Markus & Watzinger, Martin, 2022. "ICT, collaboration, and innovation: Evidence from BITNET," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 211(C).

    More about this item


    JEL Classification:;

    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:cge:wacage:575. 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 bibliographic 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.

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

    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.