The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 537–564 | Cite as

The cliometrics of academic chairs. Scientific knowledge and economic growth: the evidence across the Italian Regions 1900–1959

  • Cristiano Antonelli
  • Nicola Crepax
  • Claudio Fassio


The paper elaborates and tests two hypotheses. First, that knowledge is not a homogeneous activity, but rather a bundle of highly differentiated disciplines that have different characteristics, both in terms of generation and exploitation, that bear a differentiated impact on economic growth. Advances in scientific knowledge that can be converted into technological knowledge with high levels of fungibility, appropriability, cumulability and complementarity have a higher chance to affect economic growth. Second, that academic chairs are a reliable indicator of the amount and types of knowledge being generated by the academic system. Hence the analysis of the evolution of the academic chairs of an academic system is a promising area of investigation. In this paper the exploration of the evolution of the size and the disciplinary composition of the stock of academic chairs in five Italian macro-regions in the years 1900–1959 provides an opportunity to understand the contribution of scientific knowledge to economic growth in each regional system. The econometric analysis confirms that advances in engineering and chemistry, as proxied by the number of chairs, had much a stronger effect on the regional economic growth than advances in other scientific fields. These results have important implications for research policy, as they highlight the differences in the economic effects of academic disciplines, and for the economics of science, as they support the hypothesis that academic chairs can be used as reliable indicators of on-going research activities in the different types of scientific knowledge.


Academic chairs Types of knowledge Knowledge fungibility Knowledge exploitation Knowledge externalities of knowledge types 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristiano Antonelli
    • 1
  • Nicola Crepax
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Claudio Fassio
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di EconomiaUniversità di Torino & Collegio Carlo Alberto, BRICKTurinItaly
  2. 2.Compagnia San PaoloTurinItaly
  3. 3.Università BocconiMilanItaly
  4. 4.Università del Piemonte OrientaleNovaraItaly

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