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A New View of General Purpose Technologies


  • Uwe Cantner

    () (School of Economics and Business Administration, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena)

  • Simone Vannuccini

    (Graduate College "The Economics of Innovative Change", University of Jena)


The economic literature started to recognize the heterogeneity characterizing the nature of different technologies, introducing the concept of General Purpose Technologies. In this paper, we offer a "new view of General Purpose Technologies", building on the historical as well as on the recent literature, enquiring more in deep the definitional problems related to the GPTs and the conditions for their emergence, together with the characteristic for their prevalence and pervasiveness. A Schumpeterian and evolutionary view pointing at the micro and meso level of analysis - that of the dynamics of firms and industries -, is in our view the privileged perspective economists need to adopt in order to revitalize the theoretical and empirical study of GPTs. The similarities with the emergence of dominant designs and the relations with dynamics of increasing returns and path dependency in the choice between alternative technologies offer us a set of tools well suited to study the establishment of GPTs as a process unfolding in time, more than as a single homogeneous shock.

Suggested Citation

  • Uwe Cantner & Simone Vannuccini, 2012. "A New View of General Purpose Technologies," Jena Economic Research Papers 2012-054, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2012-054

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. RAITERI Emilio, 2015. "A time to nourish? Evaluating the impact of innovative public procurement on technological generality through patent data," Cahiers du GREThA 2015-05, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
    2. Taalbi, Josef, 2017. "Origins and Pathways of Innovation in the Third Industrial Revolution: Sweden, 1950-2013," Lund Papers in Economic History 159, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    3. Uwe Cantner & Simone Vannuccini, 2016. "Innovation and Lock-in," Jena Economic Research Papers 2016-018, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    4. Clifford Bekar & Kenneth Carlaw & Richard Lipsey, 2016. "General Purpose Technologies in Theory, Applications and Controversy: A Review," Discussion Papers dp16-15, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

    More about this item


    General Purpose Technologies; Long Waves; Business Cycles; Dominant design; Pervasiveness of technologies; Neo-Schumpeterian economics.;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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