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Individual innovation and waves of technical change: specific characteristics of the mechanisation of early Spanish industry

12nd National Competition for Economic Research Grants

Economic history

Senior Researcher : Marc Badia Miró

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad de Barcelona.


Technical change and economic growth are closely linked in the long term. In this regard, there is a direct relation between the difficulties which exist in the processes of adoption and dissemination of technology, and the existence of differentials in the levels of per capital income. That is why it is relevant to study those factors which directly intervene in the knowledge, adoption and use of technology (institutional, geographical and economic specialisation factors, etc.).

Precisely in order to advance in this area of knowledge, we propose a research project which focuses on the analysis of the most microeconomic factors, which influence the individual decision to innovate. Specifically, we aim to observe the patterns of dissemination of certain technological innovations, and compare them with those observed in other studies (other technologies, different countries, etc.). This comparative analysis will be based on the idea that the process of technological dissemination occurs in a network, in which the interdependence among agents is combined with other factors such as the specific characteristics of the geographical location, the institutional environment, the economic sector which adopts the technology or the characteristics of the entrepreneurs themselves. Unlike the existing works in this field, which focus on more macroeconomic factors regarding its spatial dissemination, we want to advance in the study of the microeconomic factors in technological change, by means of approaches applied in studies of complex systems.

For this, we propose two types of study cases: 1) Technologies which are widespread but with different time patterns depending on the country under study. The study of these will make it possible to define our work methodology and test its reliability; 2) Hydraulic turbines from the middle of the 19th century to the start of the Second Republic, due to their decisive role in the mechanisation of early industry in Spain. Together with this, we could analyse a parallel case in Europe, based on the study of ring frames for the spinning of fibres.

With this project, we hope to improve the understanding of those factors which influence individual decisions to adopt a new technology, those which have a direct impact on the speed of dissemination of the innovation, as well as the interactions that exist between them (micro-macro links). The methodology we aim to develop and test will make it possible to include both microeconomic and macroeconomic factors in the analysis, in a combined manner.

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