More of the same or something different? Technological originality and novelty in public procurement-related patents

Authors: Emilio Raiteri (EPFL)

During the last decade demand-side innovation policies have received renewed interest and innovative public procurement has been increasingly considered as a de facto technology policy. However, recent studies say little about the kind of innovations procurement is able to induce. This gap in the literature is surprising if we relate the current debate with the economic-historical analyses illustrating the contribution of the US government in spurring major technological breakthroughs.

This work hypothesizes that the innovative output induced by procurement contract is more exploratory and novel in nature compared to what would be achieved in the absence of public demand. To test this hypothesis I design a quasi-experiment, in which patents are the units of analysis. Treated patents are the output of a federal procurement contract. The control group is constructed through matching methods based on patent characteristics. Treated and control group are compared to check for differences on two kind of outcome variables: i) the originality index ii) a set of novelty-related measure based on technological classi fications assigned to each patent. Results suggest that public procurement produces innovations that are peculiar objects in the technology space, that embody more novel and wider combination of technological capabilities.

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