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How Do Local Resources Drive Innovation in Emerging Technologies?


Eunhee Sohn, Georgia Institute of Technology
Robert Seamans, New York University
Daniel Sands, New York University

Research Questions Addressed

Through what mechanisms does the adoption of a nascent technology influence local innovation?

How do pre-existing capabilities among firms or workers affect the potential for innovation when a new technology arrives?

Primary Findings

Using statistical analysis and historical investigation, the study examines advances in the early days of the aviation industry to better understand how technology adoption in a geographical region drives local innovation. The results of the study suggest that the establishment of an airmail route in a given U.S. county led to an increase in local aviation patenting by approximately 32 percent.

The authors find evidence that the local availability of user experience and technological feedback benefited inventors, as did the availability of a workforce with relevant skills, such as mechanics and engineers. Market incentives also appeared to drive innovation, as local inventors, entrepreneurs, and companies in other fields clearly diversified their output in response to the commercialization opportunities presented by the arrival of airmail.