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Detecting the emergence of technologies and the evolution and co-development trajectories in science (DETECTS): a ‘burst’ analysis-based approach

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This work aims to detect the emergence of science and technology fields and to characterise science and technology trajectories. It proposes a new data mining approach, called ‘DETECTS’, for the identification of those research and innovative activities whose intensity increases sharply compared to previous levels and to other developments. This approach also allows monitoring the extent to which field and topic-specific activities further accelerate, stabilise or abate, and the time it takes for such dynamics to unfold. By applying the ‘DETECTS’ methodology on data from scientific publications and patents, this work sheds light on: the structure, articulation and relevance of the most important scientific and technological developments occurred during the period 1990–2011; the extent to which new fields arise from the cross-fertilisation of different technologies; the way in which advancements in science relate to technological progress; and the areas where future developments are likely to occur in the short and medium term. Results further suggest, somewhat unexpectedly, that in some focal technology fields considered, the acceleration in the development of science seems to closely follow the acceleration in the development of technologies, and not vice versa.

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  1. Bass’ model was originally intended for the analysis of the diffusion of new products, but was later followed to model the diffusion of successive generations of technologies. See Bass (2004) for a survey.

  2. A recent discussion about technology push and demand pull perspectives in innovation studies can be found in Di Stefano et al. (2012).

  3. Iran: 29 % annual growth between 1996 and 2011 on citable documents (SCImago 2012).

  4. The IPC system is maintained under the aegis of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Further information on the IPC is provided at:

  5. In most patent databases, patent documents are retrospectively re-allocated to newly defined or modified IPC codes according to the latest edition of the IPC system.

  6. See for further details on EPO’s PATSTAT database.

  7. Patent families are defined here using the concept of the “extended” patent families as described in Martínez (2011), and are built using the INPADOC family table of PATSTAT database, Spring 2014.

  8. USPTO patent applications rules are presented in USPTO, Consolidated Patent Rules, May 2014 (pp. 150–151), available at

  9. Figures for the USPTO grants may suffer from truncation from the mid-2000s, because of comparatively longer examination delays.

  10. IPC subclasses refer to the 3rd level IPC group (e.g. 4-digit level).

  11. A threshold of more than 100 patents between 1995 and 2011 has been applied.

  12. Future work might exploit information about authors, inventors and their affiliations, and thus test for the hypotheses made about the different incentives that may drive scientific publications and patenting, and the extent to which affiliations (e.g. academia or industry) shape them.

  13. An alternative research path aimed to shed light on the link scientific research—patented inventions would entail starting from bursting technologies and looking at the possible citations to the scientific literature they may make, to see if some related literature was bursting before the considered technologies “burst” in patents.


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This work does not represent the official views of the OECD, of its member countries, nor the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation for Government of the State of Bahia. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the authors. We are grateful to the participants in the OECD Working Party on Industry Analysis and to Alessandra Colecchia for helpful feedback. Roberto de Pinho acknowledges the support of the OECD and of the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation for Government of the State of Bahia. The usual caveats apply.

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Correspondence to Mariagrazia Squicciarini.

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Dernis, H., Squicciarini, M. & de Pinho, R. Detecting the emergence of technologies and the evolution and co-development trajectories in science (DETECTS): a ‘burst’ analysis-based approach. J Technol Transf 41, 930–960 (2016).

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