Foreign inventors responsible for a third of US breakthroughs

Washington: Immigrant inventors in the US are “substantially” more productive than native-born scientists, according to an article by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

About 36 percent of innovation over the past three decades can be attributed to immigrants — who account for 16 percent of the country’s inventors, the paper concludes. Foreign-born inventors are directly behind nearly a quarter of all patents, and their work indirectly contributes additional insights to US-born scientists.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seal is displayed in front of its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Foreign-born inventors are directly behind nearly a quarter of all US patents.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seal is displayed in front of its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Foreign-born inventors are directly behind nearly a quarter of all US patents.Credit:Getty Images

“Over a third of US innovation can be attributed to this source, underscoring the importance of diversity, combining inventors with different skills and backgrounds to push the innovation frontier,” said the authors, led by Shai Bernstein, an economist from the Harvard Business School.

Researchers examined metrics such as the number of patents, patent citations, and the economic value of patents since 1990. The contribution of high-skilled immigrants is wide-ranging—they are not particularly concentrated in specific sectors—but they generate a significant proportion of innovative output in technology -, medical and chemical industries, according to the study.

The paper also notes that foreign-born inventors tend to have more employees than native scientists and are more likely to work with other immigrants.

These inventors “appear to facilitate the importation of foreign knowledge into the US, with immigrant inventors relying more on foreign technology and collaborating more with foreign inventors,” the authors write.

People walk through the atrium of the US Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

People walk through the atrium of the US Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.Credit:Getty Images

Immigration recovered in 2022 after two years of restrictions and visa backlogs due to the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic accelerated the decline that began under former President Donald Trump, and the lack of immigrants is now one of the factors contributing to labor market shortages.

Even with the recent influx, the US has about 1.7 million fewer working-age immigrants than would have been the case had immigration continued at its pre-2020 pace, separate research shows. About 600,000 of those missing immigrants would have had college degrees.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/foreign-inventors-responsible-for-more-than-a-third-of-us-breakthroughs-20221230-p5c9fi.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Foreign inventors responsible for a third of US breakthroughs

Callan Tansill

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