Discussion paper

DP17179 ICT, Collaboration, and Innovation: Evidence from BITNET

Does access to technologies that reduce information and communication costs increase innovation? We examine this question by exploiting the staggered adoption of BITNET across U.S. universities in the 1980s. BITNET, an early version of the Internet, enabled e-mail-based knowledge exchange and collaboration among academics. After the adoption of BITNET, university-connected inventors increase patenting substantially. The effects are driven by collaborative patents by new inventor teams. The patents induced by ICT are closely related to science. In contrast, we neither find an effect on patents not closely related to science nor on corporate inventors unconnected to universities.


Wernsdorf, K, M Nagler and M Watzinger (2022), ‘DP17179 ICT, Collaboration, and Innovation: Evidence from BITNET‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17179. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17179