Structure of the Region-Technology Network as a Driver for Technological Innovation

Dion R. J. O’Neale, Shaun C. Hendy, and Demival Vasques Filho

Front. Big Data, 14 July 2021

Agglomeration and spillovers are key phenomena of technological innovation, driving regional economic growth. Here, we investigate these phenomena through technological outputs of over 4,000 regions spanning 42 countries, by analyzing more than 30 years of patent data (approximately 2.7 million patents) from the European Patent Office. We construct a bipartite network—based on revealed comparative advantage—linking geographic regions with areas of technology and compare its properties to those of artificial networks using a series of randomization strategies, to uncover the patterns of regional diversity and technological ubiquity. Our results show that the technological outputs of regions create nested patterns similar to those of ecological networks. These patterns suggest that regions need to dominate various technologies first (those allegedly less sophisticated), creating a diverse knowledge base, before subsequently developing less ubiquitous (and perhaps more sophisticated) technologies as a consequence of complementary knowledge that facilitates innovation. Finally, we create a map—the Patent Space Network—showing the interactions between technologies according to their regional presence. This network reveals how technology across industries co-appear to form several explicit clusters, which may aid future works on predicting technological innovation due to agglomeration and spillovers.

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