Russell Funk, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Michigan, delivers a lecture titled “A Dynamic Network Approach to Breakthrough Innovation” at the Computation Institute on November 30, 2012.
This presentation outlines a framework for the study of innovation. The framework treats discoveries as additions to evolving, directed networks that are defined by relationships among technologies. As inventions enter a network, they expand the reach of the ideas on which they build. At the same time, they influence how successive discoveries use those ideas. The approach is grounded in novel measures that capture the extent to which an innovation amplifies or disrupts the status quo. Those measures, disruptiveness and radicalness, index the effects inventions have on subsequent uses of discoveries that preceded them. In so doing, they characterize a theoretically important but elusive feature of innovation that is central to work in multiple fields. The approach is validated using four strategies that show the framework effectively: (1) discriminates among innovations of similar impact in analyses of the most-cited U.S. patents; (2) identifies high-profile discoveries that amplify and disrupt technology streams in case studies of select technologies; (3) implies that highly disruptive patents reduce citations to the inventions they cite by 60% relative to a matched sample in difference-in-differences estimation; and, (4) yields consequential findings in analyses of patents assigned to 110 research-intensive U.S. universities.