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The geography of innovation in Italy, 1861-1913: evidence from patent data

Alessandro Nuvolari and Michelangelo Vasta

Department of Economics University of Siena from Department of Economics, University of Siena

Abstract: In this paper we provide a systematic appraisal of the spatial patterns of inventive activity in Italy in the period 1861-1913. Our main source of evidence is a data-set containing all patents granted in Italy in five benchmark years (1864-65, 1881, 1891, 1902, 1911). Our geographical unit of analysis is the province, an administrative district of the time. First, using some simple descriptive statistics, we introduce a characterization of the spatial distribution of patents and of its evolution over time. Second, we perform an econometric exercise in which we assess the connection between different forms of human capital and patent intensity. We are able to establish a robust correlation between literacy and “basic” patent intensity and robust correlation between secondary technical education and scientific and engineering studies and “high quality” patent intensity. Third, we study the connection between patents and industrialization. Our exercise shows that patents exerted a significant role in accounting for the level of industrial production. Interestingly enough, in this context, the role of patents was possibly more relevant than that of the availability of water-power and of the level of real wages (two factors that were pointed out by the previous literature, mostly on the basis of rather impressionistic accounts of the evidence). Our study warrants two main conclusions. First, domestic inventive activities were an important element of the industrialization process, even in a late-comer country such as Italy. Second, at the time of the unification, Northern provinces were characterized by more effective innovation systems. This factor contributes to explain the growing divide in economic performance between the North and the South of the country during the Liberal age

Date: 2015-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-geo, nep-his, nep-hrm, nep-ino, nep-ipr, nep-pr~ and nep-sbm
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2)

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Related works:
Journal Article: The geography of innovation in Italy, 1861–1913: evidence from patent data (2017) Downloads
Working Paper: The geography of innovation in Italy, 1861-1913: evidence from patent data (2014) Downloads
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