The relation between knowledge accumulation and technical value in interdisciplinary technologies

04 May 2022

A challenging task in technology management is the early identification of potentially valuable inventions. The depth, breadth, and age of the body of knowledge underlying an invention are theorized to indicate the technical experience of the sectors relevant to the invention. Prior research assessing this body of knowledge have focused on the content of knowledge through bibliometric and semantic indicators but neglected the structural role of knowledge underlying a patent. Focusing on technical value, we propose a new metric that accounts for the structural maturity of knowledge preceding an invention. Using a composite patent value and multiple generation citation networks, we compare knowledge accumulation in 60 originating patents for inventions in the energy-harvesting sector over a 100-year observation period, resulting in an analysis of 1900 patents. The results indicate that our metric for knowledge accumulation reveals a statistically significant correlation between the structural maturity of the knowledge that contributes to the specific invention and technical value of a patent. The structural view on knowledge accumulation explains at least as much variance in the composite value of patents as current knowledge content-based indicators, and, unlike those indicators, is useful as a leading rather than lagging indicator. This metric can therefore find application in technology forecasting as a forward indicator of the technical value of inventions.