2019/04 LEM Working Paper Series

Exhibitions, patents, and innovation in the early twentieth century: evidence from the Turin 1911 International Exhibition

Giacomo Domini
Innovation; international exhibitions; Italy; patents

  JEL Classifications
N74, O31, O33
This paper investigates the relevance for innovation of international exhibitions. While the first of these events, i.e. London’s 1851 Great Exhibition, was an “exhibition of innovations”, many of the subsequent ones, following the model of industrial exhibitions developed in France, did not select exhibits based on novelty. In fact, they displayed a large spectrum of products, ranging from machines to primary products. Therefore, the suitability of data from their catalogues for proxying innovation, and their relationship to the traditional patent measure, should be better qualified. To do so, this paper performs an in-depth analysis of the Turin 1911 international exhibition, a medium-sized representative “French-model” exhibition. It matches a new database, built from the catalogue of this event, with patents granted in Italy, revealing substantial differences. Furthermore, it evaluates how inventors could use the exhibition to promote their ideas, establish their reputation, and develop their career.
download pdf