General purpose technologies 'Engines of growth'?

Timothy F. Bresnahan*, M. Trajtenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whole eras of technical progress and growth appear to be driven by a few 'General Purpose Technologies' (GPT's), such as the steam engine, the electric motor, and semiconductors. GPT's are characterized by pervasiveness, inherent potential for technical improvements, and 'innovational complementarities', giving rise to increasing returns-to-scale. However, a decentralized economy will have difficulty in fully exploiting the growth opportunities of GPT's: arms-length market transactions between the GPT and its users may result in 'too little, too late' innovation. Likewise, difficulties in forecasting the technological developments of the other side can lower the rate of technical advance of all sectors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-108
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Econometrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995


  • Coordination
  • Growth
  • Social returns
  • Technical change


Dive into the research topics of 'General purpose technologies 'Engines of growth'?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this