Technological Emergence and Military Technology Innovation

To what extent is military technology innovation emergent? This study answers this question by applying an emergence detection algorithm to roughly 300,000 technical terms extracted from military technology patents granted from 1980 to 2019. Emergence – instances of sudden and rapid growth of a technical term within the military patent corpus – is found to vary greatly over time. Military technology innovation during the period of 1996-2008 is found to be highly emergent. This period was found to be characterized by high organization-type diversity; non-traditional vendors, traditional defense contractors, large civilian-facing firms, and individuals generated military patents containing many novel emergent technical terms. However, in recent years, military technology innovation has exhibited markedly less emergence. The period of low emergence is characterized by reduced contributions by non-traditional vendors, defense prime contractors, and individual inventors to military patents containing emergent terms. These observations suggest that policies attempting to ensure a healthy defense innovation ecosystem should seek organization-type diversity and may benefit from employing promotion strategies targeted at distinct organization types.

Author(s): Jon Schmid
Organization(s): RAND
Source: Defense and Peace Economics
Year: 2022

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