53rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy", 27-31 August 2013, Palermo, Italy
In the last decades, innovation activity has been defined by an increasing complexity and a faster pace of the underlying technological change. Accordingly, several studies have shown that competitive systems of innovation benefit from being able to build upon a wide but integrated spectrum of technological capabilities characterised by a sustained dynamism in the level of inter-sectoral technology flows. In this context, technological platforms ? defined as knowledge and scientific launching pads that spin out of key enabling technologies - may create the opportunity for technological externalities to take place across a set of related sectors through a swarm of increasingly applied and incremental innovations. In this paper, we look at the determinants of these technological platforms and explore the mechanisms through which these influence inter sectoral technology spillovers, thus shaping technological shifts within the broader economy. Within this framework, we examine what industrial policies are needed to enhance the spatial and cross-sectoral impact of technological platforms so as to maximise their spillover benefits. Using data on patents and patent citations obtained from the PATSTAT-CRIOS database, covering all patent applications made to the European Patent Office (EPO), we try to model the systemic nature of technology platforms. In particular, our aim is to provide empirical evidence that the presence of key enabling technologies at the base of the platform may lead to a more sustained interaction across second tier innovations characterised by a ?distant? knowledge base. Then, we endeavour to investigate the relationship that may take place between this process and the role played by the regional dimension. We first provide an overview of the main characteristics of key enabling technologies within the European system of innovation, developing a map of the knowledge flows that take place between technological sectors, along with descriptive elements related to their geographical distribution. Then, we try to test the hypothesis that innovations whose effects take place in a wide range of technological fields might increase the likelihood of innovation spillovers and innovation complementarities across related and unrelated sectors at the regional, national and European level. To conclude, we offer a discussion of the results through a policy perspective.