DP13958 Patterns of innovation during the industrial revolution: a reappraisal using a composite indicator of patent quality

Author(s): Alessandro Nuvolari, Valentina Tartari, Matteo Tranchero
Publication Date: August 2019
Date Revised: September 2020
Keyword(s): industrial revolution, macroinventions, microinventions, patents
JEL(s): N74, O31
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13958

The distinction between macro- and microinventions is at the core of recent debates on the Industrial Revolution. Yet, the empirical testing of this notion has remained elusive. We address this issue by introducing a new quality indicator for all patents granted in England in the period 1700-1850. Our findings indicate that macroinventions did not exhibit any specific time-clustering, while micro-inventions were, instead, correlated with the economic cycle. In addition, we also find were characterized by a labour-saving bias. These results suggest that Allen's and Mokyr's view of macro-inventions rather than conflicting should be regarded as complementary.