Innovation now requires more knowledge

NIH plan to give ageing scientists cash draws scepticism
Agency wants to pay senior biomedical researchers to wind down their labs.
11 February 2015

The age of first innovation itself might be increasing, too, according to analyses of patent filings and the age at which Nobel laureates win their prizes.
Benjamin Jones, an economist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has found that over the past century there has been a shift towards productive science at older ages, perhaps because innovation now requires more knowledge [1].

Age and Great Invention
Benjamin F. JonesKellogg School of Management and NBER
Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators today than they were a century ago. Nobel Prize winners and great inventors have become especially unproductive at younger ages. Meanwhile, the early life cycle decline is not offset by increased productivity beyond middle age. The early life cycle dynamics are closely related to age when the PhD was received, and I discuss a theory where knowledge accumulation across generations leads innovators to seek more education over time. More generally, the narrowing innovative life cycle reduces, other things equal, aggregate creative output. This productivity drop is particularly acute if innovators’ raw ability is greatest when young.