Innovation Diffusion: An Epidemiological Perspective

Innovation Diffusion: An Epidemiological Perspective

Nikolaos Evangelatos (First Department of Medicine, Klinikum Nürnberg Nord, Nuremberg, Germany) and Elias Carayannis (School of Business, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijsesd.2014010103


The phenomenon of diffusion has been extensively studied from different disciplines in the natural and social sciences and has been used in the study of innovation dynamics. Diffusion plays also a central role to the study of disease-spread within a population, being an essential element of epidemiological research. In case of disease-diffusion, the contagious agents spread among susceptible individuals, thus rendering them infected. Those individuals can in turn communicate the disease to other susceptible community members and start an epidemic. These characteristics of disease-spread have been successfully studied by epidemiological theoretical tools. Patent citations, traditionally used as indicators for R&D output, signal the acquisition of knowledge and, in that sense, facilitate diffusion of innovation. In this paper the authors argue that patent citations could be seen as contagious agents and the diffusion of innovation could be studied with tools from the field of epidemiology. In this direction authors draw a theoretical framework for future original research.
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Although a theoretical link between innovation and economic growth is almost self-evident, it was not until after WWII and the work of Solow that innovation took a central place in formal economic models (Solow, 1957). According to many economists, technological innovation plays a substantial role for long-term growth of productivity (Borrus & Stowsky, 1997). This relationship was further elaborated by economists who used mathematical tools and developed new economic models such as the ‘new growth theory’ or the ''endogenous growth theory'' (Fagerberg, 2004).

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