, Volume 102, Issue 1, pp 629–651 | Cite as

Patents as instruments for exploring innovation dynamics: geographic and technological perspectives on “photovoltaic cells”

  • Loet Leydesdorff
  • Floortje Alkemade
  • Gaston Heimeriks
  • Rinke Hoekstra


The recently developed Cooperative Patent Classifications of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) provide new options for an informed delineation of samples in both USPTO data and the Worldwide Patent Statistical Database (PatStat) of EPO. Among the “technologies for the mitigation of climate change” (class Y02), we zoom in on nine material technologies for photovoltaic cells; and focus on one of them (CuInSe2) as a lead case. Two recently developed techniques for making patent maps with interactive overlays—geographical ones using Google Maps and maps based on citation relations among International Patent Classifications (IPC)—are elaborated into dynamic versions that allow for online animations and comparisons by using split screens. Various forms of animation are discussed. The longitudinal development of Rao-Stirling diversity in the IPC-based maps provided us with a heuristics for studying technological diversity in terms of generations of the technology. The longitudinal patterns are clear in USPTO data more than in PatStat data because PatStat aggregates patent information from countries in different stages of technological development, whereas one can expect USPTO patents to be competitive at the technological edge.


Innovation Trajectory Patent Classification Map Generations Photovoltaics 



We are grateful to comments on a previous version of this manuscript by Jan Youtie (Georgia Tech) and Wilfried van Sark (Utrecht University). We also thank two anonymous referees for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Loet Leydesdorff
    • 1
  • Floortje Alkemade
    • 2
  • Gaston Heimeriks
    • 2
  • Rinke Hoekstra
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Innovation Studies, Faculty of GeosciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Faculty of LawUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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