Did the Covid-19 pandemic have an impact on innovation? Past economic disruptions, anecdotal evidence, and the previous literature suggest a decline with substantial differences between industries. We leverage USPTO patent application data to investigate and quantify the disturbance. We assess differences by field of technology (at the CPC subclass level) as well as the impact of direct and indirect relevance for the management of the pandemic. Direct Covid-19 relevance is identified from a keyword search of the patent application fulltexts; indirect Covid-19 relevance is derived from past CPC subclass to subclass citation patterns. We find that direct Covid-19 relevance is associated with a strong boost to the growth of the number of patent applications in the first year of the pandemic at the same order of magnitude (in percentage points) as the percentage of patents referencing Covid-19. We find no effect for indirect Covid-19 relevance, indicating a focus on applied research at the expense of more basic research. Fields of technology (CPC mainsections) have an additional significant impact, with, e.g., mainsections A (human necessities) and C (chemistry, metallurgy) having a strong performance.
Heinrich, T., and Yang, J., 2022. Innovation in times of Covid-19. arXiv:2212.14159