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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring the Changing Structures of Inventor Collaboration in U.S. Cities between 1836 and 1975

  • Author(s): van der Wouden, Frank
  • Advisor(s): Rigby, David L
  • et al.
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The production of novel knowledge is seen as a key driver of economic development. However, knowledge production is unevenly distributed across space, giving rise to patterns of regional disparities in economic fortunes. Recent empirical evidence has shown that the production of knowledge is increasingly being dominated by collaboration and teamwork. This is explained by the rising complexity of knowledge, the production of which demands resources that exceed the capacity of individuals. The interactions of collaboration can provide a platform over which resources can flow between regions, boosting opportunities for knowledge sharing and learning. Yet, to date, there is little long-run, systematic, empirical evidence on the relationship between collaboration, geography and knowledge production before 1975.

This dissertation contributes to this gap by examining the structures of inventor collaboration in U.S. cities between 1836 and 1975. A new inventor-patent database is constructed that identifies all (co-)inventors and their geographical location(s) on more than 3 million patents granted by the USPTO during this time-period. The results of the analyses provide a number of new insights that aid the understanding of the role of inventor collaboration in knowledge production and regional economic development. This dissertation presents evidence on a significant positive relationship between the complexity of a patent and collaboration. Increasing complexity is associated with local collaboration. Geographical distance negatively impacts the odds of collaboration, while having a first- or second-order relationship boosts these odds. Inventors are more likely to collaborate with individuals with similar knowledge portfolios, especially during times of crises. Inventors who moved across space or between firms are found to have greater future productivity. These findings can help policy makers and corporate executive design policy that fosters interactions that are firm and place-specific.

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This item is under embargo until October 19, 2020.