Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 785–810 | Cite as

Schumpeterian patterns of innovation and the sources of breakthrough inventions: evidence from a data-set of R&D awards

  • Roberto FontanaEmail author
  • Alessandro Nuvolari
  • Hiroshi Shimizu
  • Andrea Vezzulli
Regular Article


This paper examines the relationship between Schumpeterian patterns of innovation and the generation of breakthrough inventions. Our data source for breakthrough inventions is the “R&D 100 awards” competition organized each year by the magazine Research & Development. Since 1963, this magazine has been awarding this prize to 100 most technologically significant new products available for sale or licensing in the year preceding the judgment. We use USPTO patent data to measure the relevant dimensions of the technological regime prevailing in each sector and, on this basis, we provide a characterization of each sector in terms of the Schumpeter Mark I/Schumpeter Mark II archetypes. Our main finding is that breakthrough inventions are more likely to emerge in ‘turbulent’ Schumpeter Mark I type of contexts.


Innovation patterns Radical innovations  Schumpeter Mark I and Mark II 

JEL Classification

O31 O33 



We thank the editors of the special issue and an anonymous reviewer for helpful suggestions. We have also benefited from comments of seminar participants at the International Schumpeter Society Conference 2010, Workshop on ‘Knowledge Integration and Innovation’, EPIP conference 2009, EMAEE Conference 2009. Fontana and Nuvolari acknowledge financial support from European Union, project FP6 – 043345, NEST-2005-Path-CUL: “CID-Cultural Innovation Dynamics. Explaining the uneven evolution of human knowledge”.


  1. Ahuia G, Lampert C (2001) Entrepreneurship in the large corporation: a longitudinal study of how established firms create breakthrough inventions. Strateg Manag J 22:521–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Block F, Keller M (2009) Where do innovations come from? Transformations in the US economy. Socio-Econ Rev 7:459–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Breschi S, Malerba F, Orsenigo L (2000) Technological regimes and schumpeterian patterns of innovation. Econ J 110:388–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carpenter MP, Narin F, Woolf P (1981) Citation rates to technologically important patents. World Pat Inf 3:160–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Castellacci F (2007) Technological regimes and sectoral differences in productivity growth. Ind Corp Change 16:1105–1145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chandy R, Tellis G (2000) The incumbent’s curse? Incumbency, size and radical product innovation. J Market 64:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen WM (2010) Fifty years of empirical studies of innovative activity and performance. In: Hall B, Rosenberg N (eds) The handbook of economics of innovation. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 129–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Conti R, Gambardella A, Mariani M (2010) Learning to be Edison? Individual inventive experience and breakthrough inventions. Paper presented at DRUID Academy conference 2010Google Scholar
  9. Corrocher N, Malerba F, Montobbio F (2007) Schumpeterian patterns of innovation in the ICT field. Res Policy 36:418–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Drukker DM, Gates R (2006) Generating Halton sequences using Mata. Stata J 6:278–294Google Scholar
  11. Freeman C (1991) Networks of innovators. A synthesis of research issues. Res Policy 20:499–514Google Scholar
  12. Geweke J (1989) Bayesian inference in econometric models using Monte Carlo integration. Econometrica 57:1317–1339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Granstrand O, Alange S (1995) The evolution of corporate entrepreneurship in Swedish industry—was Schumpeter wrong? J Evol Econ 5:133–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hajivassiliou VA, McFadden DL (1998) The method of simulated scores for the estimation of LDV models. Econometrica 66:863–896CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hall B, Jaffe A, Trajtenberg M (2001) The NBER patent citations data file: lessons, insights, methodological tools. NBER Working Paper n. 849w8Google Scholar
  16. Hinze S, Reiss T, Schmoch U (1997) Statistical analysis on the distance between fields of technology. Report for the European Commission, TSER projectGoogle Scholar
  17. Jeppesen LB, Lakhani KR (2010) Marginality and problem solving effectiveness in broadcast search. Org Sci 21(5):1016–1033CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jewkes J, Sawers D, Stillerman R (1958) The sources of invention. MacMillan, London (rev. edn. 1969)Google Scholar
  19. Keane MP, Wolpin KI (1994) The solution and estimation of discrete choice dynamic programming models by simulation and intermpolation: Monte Carlo evidence. Rev Econ Stat 76:648–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Khan Z, Sokoloff K (1993) “Schemes of practical utility”: entrepreneurship and innovation among “great inventors” in the United States, 1790–1865. J Econ Hist 53:289–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Malerba F (2005) Sectoral systems: how and why innovation differs across sectors. In: Fagerberg J, Mowery DC, Nelson RR (eds) The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 380–406Google Scholar
  22. Malerba F, Orsenigo L (1995) Schumpeterian patterns of innovation. Camb J Econ 19:47–65Google Scholar
  23. Malerba F, Orsenigo L (1996) Schumpeterian patterns of innovation are technology-specific. Res Policy 25:451–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Malerba F, Orsenigo L (1997) Technological regimes and sectoral patterns of innovative activities. Ind Corp Change 6:83–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marsili O, Verspagen B (2002) Technology and the dynamics of industrial structures: an empirical mapping of Dutch manufacturing. Ind Corp Change 11:791–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mokyr J (1990) The lever of riches. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  27. Mowery DC, Nelson RR (eds) (1999) Sources of industrial leadership. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. Nelson RR, Winter S (1982) An evolutionary theory of economic change. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. Pavitt K (1984) Patterns of technical change: towards a taxonomy and a theory. Res Policy 13:343–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Scherer FM (1989) “Comments” on Z. Griliches, “Patents: recent trends and puzzles”. Brook Pap Econ Act 9:291–330Google Scholar
  31. Scherer FM, Harhoff D (2000) Technology policy for a world of skewed distributed outcomes. Res Policy 29:559–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schoenmakers W, Duysters G (2010) The technological origins of radical inventions. Res Policy 39:1051–1059CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Silverberg G, Verspagen B (2007) The size distribution of innovations revisited: an application of extreme value statistics to citation and value measure of patent significance. J Econ 139:318–319Google Scholar
  34. Singh J, Fleming L (2010) Lone inventors as sources of breakthroughs: myth or reality? Manag Sci 56:41–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Van Dijk M (2000) Technological regimes and industrial dynamics: the evidence from Dutch manufacturing. Ind Corp Change 9:173–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alessandro Nuvolari
    • 3
  • Hiroshi Shimizu
    • 4
  • Andrea Vezzulli
    • 5
  1. 1.University of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.KITeS – Bocconi UniversityMilanoItaly
  3. 3.LEM – Sant’Anna School of Advanced StudiesPisaItaly
  4. 4.Institute of Innovation ResearchHitotsubashi UniversityTokyoJapan
  5. 5.UECE-ISEGUniversitade Técnica de LisboaLisboaPortugal

Personalised recommendations