Inventing Venice:An Urban and Environmental Innovation Model from the Lagoon City
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Inventing Venice:An Urban and Environmental Innovation Model from the Lagoon City


Innovation in physical urban infrastructure is a vital component of city making in an era of sea level rise, climate change, and rapid urbanization. Venice pioneered an urban and environmental innovation model in the 14th and 15th century, successfully negotiating the cities complex geography and the sociotechnical processes that characterized Renaissance urbanism. A review of early inventor rights issued in the city suggests that the process of patent innovation facilitated urbanization of the Venetian lagoon through development of advanced drainage, dredge, irrigation, and reclamation infrastructure, essential to the city’s survival. In addition to granting patents for new inventions, the Venetian government established expert review for proposed inventions, supported prototyping and testing for untried technologies, and used patent rights to attract experts with novel inventions from across Italy and Europe. These processes, in addition to the extensive dossier of patents issued in Venice, substantiate the primacy of innovation in the process of urbanization and revel an urban innovation model. Patent law later spread along Venetian trade routes through Europe, where they were also employed in economic modernization, and the construction of urban and regional infrastructure. Interestingly, similar process can later be observed throughout Europe and the United States as patent rights were constitutionalized.

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