Second World War and the direction of medical innovation

Economic Research Working Paper No. 70

Author(s): Bhaven Sampat | Publication year: 2022

License: CC BY 4.0

This paper provides an overview of the role of the United States of America (U.S.) Second World War research effort on the direction of innovation, with a particular focus on medical research. It provides an overview of the U.S. wartime research program, reviews quantitative evidence on the effects of the overall wartime research shock on postwar patenting, describes the wartime medical research effort, and summarizes case studies of five major wartime medical research programs (penicillin, antimalarials, vaccines, blood substitutes, and hormones) and their effects on postwar R&D. It concludes by drawing out implications for crisis innovation and the direction of innovation in general, discussing mechanisms through which crises may have long-run effects, and highlighting hypotheses warranting further investigation.

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