"Innovation for Social Progress: When Imperfect Appropriability Meets Incorrect Prices" (with Jacquelyn Pless)
Presented at the NBER Economics of Innovation in the Energy Sector Workshop, Spring 2021. Among seven competitively selected papers.
"The Intellectual Distance between Clean and Dirty Technologies" (with Su Jung Jee). Draft available upon request.
Abstract: How difficult is the transition to a low-carbon technological paradigm? Using the entire universe of patents granted by the USPTO from 1976 to 2020, we evaluate the "intellectual distance" between clean and dirty technologies. We measure intellectual distance by checking how many "hops" one has to make in the citation network to get from a clean patent to a dirty one, where one hop means the clean patent directly cites a dirty patent. We find that 73% of clean patents are connected in some way to dirty patents. The mean distance between a clean and dirty patent is 3 hops. By comparison, for two randomly selected USPTO patents it is 8.5. Only 7.5% of clean patents directly cite dirty prior art. We observe considerable heterogeneity across sectors. Our results suggest that targeted clean R&D may be needed to overcome “intellectual carbon lock-in”, and in sectors where clean and dirty technologies are distant, the transition may be less about diversification and more about Schumpeterian creative destruction.