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Sustainable Innovation

Innovation and distribution issues / inequality

Saturday, 22. August 2020

Innovation is mostly seen as something positive for economic and also societal development. It is conceived as worthy of support, meaning policy makers have been enthusiastically promoting innovative activities. However, innovation research on the (negative) distributional consequences of innovative activities has gained more and more attention. Scholars have raised / identified a variety of questions and research fields in this context. To only point out a few:

Innovations can make existing technologies redundant (creative destruction) which strongly affects labor markets. New jobs are created, old jobs might get lost. The demand for labor potentially shifts from low to high-skilled workers. How does this change in demand impact low skilled workers in local economies? (Lee et al., 2019) Also, innovation is key for economic growth. The relationship between growth and rising income inequality has been widely discussed among researchers. So, is innovation one factor driving the increase in income inequality? (Aghion et al., 2019) Which re-distributive policies can address these concerns?

Focusing on the firm-level, how are innovation revenues distributed within companies? (Aghion et al., 2018)

Innovation can, of course, have also positive effects and reduce inequalities. How can we measure if innovative activities improve, e.g. vulnerable group’s access to basic provision (Andries et al., 2019) and hence reduce inequality?

Work on these topics can be either literature based or empirically. A thesis can either focus on one of the above mentioned research fields and develop a related research question or provide a generic overview over several strands of literature and identify research gaps.


If you are interested plaese contact Charlotte Rochell.




Aghion, P., Akcigit, U., Bergeaud, A., Blundell, R., & Hémous, D. (2019). Innovation and top income inequality. The Review of Economic Studies, 86(1), 1-45.

Aghion, P., Akcigit, U., Hyytinen, A., & Toivanen, O. (2018, May). On the returns to invention within firms: Evidence from Finland. In AEA Papers and Proceedings (Vol. 108, pp. 208-12).

Andries, P., Daou, A., & Verheyden, L. (2019). Innovation as a vehicle for improving socially vulnerable groups’ access to basic provisions: A research note on the development of a questionnaire module. Research Policy48(1), 281-288.

Cozzens, S. E., Kaplinsky, R., Lundvall, B., Joseph, K., Chaminade, C., & Vang, J. (2009). Innovation, poverty and inequality. Cause, coincidence, or co-evolution. Handbook of innovation systems and developing countries: Building domestic capabilities in a global setting, 57-82.

Lee, N., & Clarke, S. (2019). Do low-skilled workers gain from high-tech employment growth? High-technology multipliers, employment and wages in Britain. Research Policy, 48(9), 103803.

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