Temporal search in the scientific space predicts breakthrough inventions

Chao Min, Qing Ke

The development of inventions is theorized as a process of searching and recombining existing knowledge components. Previous studies under this theory have examined myriad characteristics of recombined knowledge and their performance implications. One feature that has received much attention is technological knowledge age. Yet, little is known about how the age of scientific knowledge influences the impact of inventions, despite the widely known catalyzing role of science in the creation of new technologies. Here we use a large corpus of patents and derive features characterizing how patents temporally search in the scientific space. We find that patents that cite scientific papers have more citations and substantially more likely to become breakthroughs. Conditional on searching in the scientific space, referencing more recent papers increases the impact of patents and the likelihood of being breakthroughs. However, this positive effect can be offset if patents cite papers whose ages exhibit a low variance. These effects are consistent across technological fields.

Knowledge Graph

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