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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper
Stars and Comets: An Exploration of the Patent Universe
Carlo Menon
November 2009
Paper No' SERCDP0037:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: R10; O31

Tags: localized knowledge spillovers; patents; innovation

The analysis of patent and citation data has become a popular source of evidence on localized knowledge spillovers and innovation. Nevertheless, an aspect has been overlooked: the patent distribution across inventors is extremely skewed, as many inventors register one or a few patents, while a small number of inventors register many patents. To our knowledge, the previous empirical literature has not discussed the different kinds of local innovation from which patents may originate. A first contribution of this paper is therefore to document the issue. A second contribution is to investigate whether patents originating from different scales of innovation are located in different cities. A third contribution - which constitutes the main scope of the paper - is to test whether the concentration of the activity of star inventors is beneficial to the local productivity of other kinds of innovation - namely the ones led by more occasional, and less prolific, inventors.