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Changing Hubs

Changing Hubs

Pharmaceutical R&D sprouts secondary centers of collaboration

Last year, we presented research on where drug patent inventors live (“Products of the Environment,” Scientific American Worldview 2015). The surprising observation was that innovation is difficult to move. Over the span of decades, pharmaceutical innovation was—and remains—strongest in the United States, Western Europe and Japan. Following this research, another group has investigated international collaboration over time and found another surprise: Although global pharmaceutical collaborations used to have a hub-and-spoke model, centered on the United States, there are now substantially more intra-European collaborations (Hu, Y. et al. Technol. Anal. Strateg. 27, 532–549 (2015)).

The three panels show changes in patent co-inventor locations over time. By analyzing patents with at least two inventors located in different countries, a U.S.-centric distribution was observed for patents granted between 1996 and 2000. Although the United States maintained its dominant position as a global hub for innovation over all the years studied, a mild increase in intra-European co-inventorship was observed from 2001 to 2005. By 2010 this pattern of European co-inventorship had become well established, with countries such as Canada, Germany, Great Britain, France and Switzerland clearly emerging as secondary hubs.