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Patents and R and D at the Firm Level: A First Look

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  • Ariel Pakes
  • Zvi Griliches

Abstract

This is a first report from a larger study of inventive activity of U.S. firms and some of its consequences. It reports on the relationship between patents applied for and R&D expenditures based on data for 121 large corporations covering the 1968-1975 period. The main conclusion is that there is a statistically significant relationship between a firm's R&D expenditures and the number of patents it applied for and receives. This relationship is very strong in the cross-sectional dimension (squared partial correlations of .8 or higher). It is weaker in the within-firm time-series dimension (partial r[squared]'s of .2 to .3). Attempts to fit an unconstrained distributed lag relationship yields only significant coefficients for the first and last terms in the lag structure, indicating both a quick response of patenting to changes in R&D and a small but persistent effect of past R&D, the truncation of this long lag being reflected in a significant coefficient for R&D lagged five years. In spite of these difficulties, patent counts do measure something systematic and hence are worthy of further study.

Suggested Citation

  • Ariel Pakes & Zvi Griliches, 1980. "Patents and R and D at the Firm Level: A First Look," NBER Working Papers 0561, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0561
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    1. Simon Kuznets, 1962. "Inventive Activity: Problems of Definition and Measurement," NBER Chapters,in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 19-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. M. Ishaq Nadiri & George C. Bitros, 1980. "Research and Development Expenditures and Labor Productivity at the Firm Level: A Dynamic Model," NBER Chapters,in: New Developments in Productivity Measurement, pages 387-418 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Pakes, Ariel & Schankerman, Mark A., 1978. "The Rate of Obsolescence of Knowledge, Research Gestation Labs, and the Private Rate of Return to Research Resources," Working Papers 78-13, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
    4. Griliches, Zvi, 1980. "R & D and the Productivity Slowdown," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(2), pages 343-348, May.
    5. Mundlak, Yair, 1978. "On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 69-85, January.
    6. Comanor, William S & Scherer, Frederic M, 1969. "Patent Statistics as a Measure of Technical Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 392-398, May/June.
    7. Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research & Committee on Economic Growth of the Social Science Research Council, 1962. "The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number univ62-1, December.
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