The dual frontier: Patented inventions and prior scientific advance

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Abstract

The extent to which scientific advances support marketplace inventions is largely unknown. We study 4.8 million U.S. patents and 32 million research articles to determine the minimum citation distance between patented inventions and prior scientific advances. We find that most cited research articles (80%) link forward to a future patent. Similarly, most patents (61%) link backward to a prior research article. Linked papers and patents typically stand 2 to 4 degrees distant from the other domain. Yet, advances directly along the patent-paper boundary are notably more impactful within their own domains. The distance metric further provides a typology of the fields, institutions, and individuals involved in science-to-technology linkages. Overall, the findings are consistent with theories that emphasize substantial and fruitful connections between patenting and prior scientific inquiry.

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