DS08 - Sociétés innovantes, intégrantes et adaptatives

Economy of disruptive innovation : the case of nanotechnology – EDIN

Economy of Disruptive Innovation

from the analysis of the specific case of nanotechnologies to general recommendation for public policies

stakes and objectives

The project aims at gathering economists and physicists in order to better understand how innovation emerges and spread from the initial scientific discoveries into groundbreaking technologies, and how government policy may support specifically such research and development investments. The burgeoning fields of research that are identified by the generic prefix “Nano” provide an ideal field to study, almost 30 years after the launching of large governmental programs. We are besides at a unique period of time with the development of new technologies for the nanoscale and new scientific artifact like molecular machines. A new wave of public initiatives is about to be launched, with the “Atoms to products” initiative of the US government, or the “quantum technology” flagship of the European Commission. Now is a very opportune time to bring precise answers and corrective actions on how to design an optimal public policy in favor of research. Our recommendations will not be limited to the scope of “nanotechnology” but should apply equally on other fields, and provide a better understanding of how the general framework of innovation –in particular its social organization as well as the public intervention in its favor– facilitates the emergence of radical innovation.

The project has two distinct parts, one focused specifically on nanotechnology, and the other looking more broadly at the research issue. Each of these parts has an empirical component. With regard to the first, we will build a database on research activity (publication), innovation (patents) and funding (public grants) in the domain of nanotechnologies that distinguishes between different types of “nano” fields, to observe their own internal dynamics and the moving frontiers between them. In the second part of this project, an empirical analysis of the impact of public support funds for academic research will be conducted using a quasi-experimental method, which requires to obtain data on all submitted projects to a research agency.

The data collected on patents and publication will allow us to analyse more deeply the knowledge value chain in the Nano-field and its evolving network structure. We’ll also characterize innovation output (patents, publications) using in particular backward and forward citation. This will allow mapping and measuring how networks evolve over time and space, what are the critical parameters of these evolutions, when typology of agents and technologies are taken into account, and what type of outputs are produced by such networks. We will also conduct an empirical and a theoretical analysis of the efficiency of public subsidies in favour of R&D. Such policy may become less effective if those subsidies are diverted to technologies with a strong product market rivalry (to the disadvantage of upstream innovation), or simply crowd-out private funds. Empirically, a particular focus will be set on the impact of public academic grants. This will require quasi-experimental methods in order to avoiding any selection bias when comparing subsidized and unsubsidized projects. A theoretical model will be also developed in order to find out how public policy can screen research projects in accordance with non-observable technological characteristics, such as technological spillovers. These different tasks will not be carried out independently; regular interactions are necessary to refine the assumptions and to achieve greater relevance with respect to economic reality.

The ultimate goal is to analyse empirically and theoretically the efficiency of government sponsored R&D under a new angle, that is the analytical grid developed in the two first work packages of this research program. This means finding out the extent to which the efficiency of public R&D subsidies varies depending on the type of technological subfields considered (e.g. upstream vs. downstream innovation, underlying social network, etc..), and to identify the optimal policy – based on a mix of ex-ante subsidies, ex-post prizes, intellectual property rights, information-acquisition efforts. The final recommendations of this research program will be developed in close coordination with policy makers from national and European institutions, and discussed at a policy roundtable that will be organized during an international seminar gathering experts from multiple disciplines (economics, history of science and “hard science” i.e. physicists).

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The project aims at gathering economists and physicists in order to better understand how innovation emerges and spread from the initial scientific discoveries into groundbreaking technologies, and how government policy may support specifically such research and development investments. The burgeoning fields of research that are identified by the generic prefix “Nano” provide an ideal field to study. We are besides at a unique period of time in science and technology history with the development of new technologies for the nanoscale and new scientific artifact like molecular machines. A new wave of public initiatives is about to be launched, with the “Atoms to products” initiative of the US government, or the “quantum technology” flagship of the European Commission. Now is a very opportune time to bring precise answers and corrective actions on how to design an optimal public policy in favor of research. Our recommendations will not be limited to the scope of “nanotechnology” but should apply equally on other fields, and provide a better understanding of how the general framework of innovation –in particular its social organization as well as the public intervention in its favor– facilitates the emergence of radical innovation.

We will build a database on research activity (publication), innovation (patents) and funding (public grants) that distinguishes between different types of “nano” fields, to observe their own internal dynamics and the moving frontiers between them. Based on those data, we will analyse more deeply the knowledge value chain in the Nano-field and its evolving network structure. We’ll also characterize innovation output (patents, publications) using in particular backward and forward citation. This will allow mapping and measuring how networks evolve over time and space, what are the critical parameters of these evolutions, when typology of agents and technologies are taken into account, and what type of outputs are produced by such networks.

We will also conduct an empirical and a theoretical analysis of the efficiency of public subsidies in favour of R&D. Such policy may become less effective if those subsidies are diverted to technologies with a strong product market rivalry (to the disadvantage of upstream innovation), or simply crowd-out private funds. Empirically, a particular focus will be set on the impact of public academic grants (at the European level, and at the level of regional cluster). This will require quasi-experimental methods in order to avoiding any selection bias when comparing subsidized and unsubsidized projects. A theoretical model will be also developed in order to find out how public policy can screen research projects in accordance with non-observable technological characteristics, such as technological spillovers.

These different tasks will not be carried out independently; regular interactions are necessary to refine the assumptions and to achieve greater relevance with respect to economic reality. The ultimate goal is to analyse empirically and theoretically the efficiency of government sponsored R&D under a new angle, that is the analytical grid developed in the two first work packages of this research program. This means finding out the extent to which the efficiency of public R&D subsidies varies depending on the type of technological subfields considered (e.g. upstream vs. downstream innovation, underlying social network, etc..), and to identify the optimal policy – based on a mix of ex-ante subsidies, ex-post prizes, intellectual property rights, information-acquisition efforts. The final recommendations of this research program will be developed in close coordination with policy makers from national and European institutions, and discussed at a policy roundtable that will be organized during an international seminar gathering experts from multiple disciplines (economics, history of science and “hard science” i.e. physicists).

Project coordinator

Monsieur Frederic Cherbonnier (Fondation Jean-Jacques Laffont / TSE)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

LEREPS LABORATOIRE D'ETUDE ET DE RECHERCHES SUR L'ECONOMIE, LES POLITIQUES ET LES SYSTEMES SOCIAUX
CEMES Centre d'élaboration de matériaux et d'études structurales
TSE Fondation Jean-Jacques Laffont / TSE

Help of the ANR 214,768 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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