Uneven Technological Development: An Analysis of the Geographical Evolution of the US Optics Industry

Authors: Melissa Haller*, University of California - Los Angeles
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: economic geography, regional development, innovation studies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Regent, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While significant research has examined processes of knowledge production across space, less work has focused on understanding the dynamics of technological change within particular industries. Why do technologies emerge unevenly across space, and how does the evolution of particular knowledge trajectories enable growth in some cities, while constraining growth in others? To better understand these questions, this project uses the optics industry as a case study. Optics is the study of the behavior and transmission of light, and optics technologies have fueled breakthrough innovations in the fields of photography, medical imaging, defense and security, fiber optics and telecommunications, and many other areas. Often described as an enabling technology, optics is unique because of the clear synergies that it possesses with other technological industries. Using patent data from the USPTO, I build on the work of previous studies of the optics industry by identifying all optics patents produced between 1976 and 2014. Then, using subclass co-classification networks, I map the evolution of optics technologies across cities in the United States.

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