Patents, International Technology Transfer and Industrial Dependence in 19th Century Spain
This paper will attempt to reflect on the processes of international technology transfer at the beginning of European industrialization. During this period, when the achievement and the spread of technical innovations were vital to the acceleration of economic growth, the more underdeveloped countries experienced an increase in technological dependency on the leading countries. In some of them, the transfer of foreign technical information was more important than that generated by the nation itself, which —in spite of the cost increase of implanting foreign innovations, given the scant integration of international equipment markets— supposed a reduction of the degree of uncertainty associated with all processes of technological changes. The principal objective of the following pages is to analyse in detail the Spanish case, a country in obvious economic decline at the end of the 18th century and well below the average for Europe for most of the 19th century. This well-known delay translated into an external technological dependence in several economic sectors, which left its mark on the industrial protection system. Technological information which contains patent applications will be taken as a valid indicator —although only partial— of the direction and structure of the innovation processes in the Spanish economy. Upon careful study of the origin of patented inventions, it can be ascertained, among other things, the degree of dependence upon external technology; which countries played an essential role in the transfer of technology to Spain; and which economic sectors depended more on foreign technology.
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