Technology and Declining Economic Dynamism

RESCHEDULED to September 11-12, 2020
Boston University, Boston, MA

Technology no longer seems to generate widely shared economic growth as well as it once did. Highly productive startup firms do not grow as quickly and productivity advances no longer diffuse as rapidly. These tendencies contribute to growing economic disparities between firms, greater economic inequality between workers and between regions, and slower overall economic growth. At the same time, new technologies may contribute to rising market power and the persistent market dominance of large firms. Policy changes, such as changed antitrust enforcement or intellectual property policy, and other factors may have also contributed to these changes. These trends portend possible further declines in industry dynamism. This conference explores what has changed, why, and what to do about it.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided both days.  Registration is free, but required.

Sponsored by:



September 11

9:00AM Welcoming Remarks.  Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Dean, BU Law
9:10AM Declining Dynamism.
This panel presents and discusses evidence on declining industrial dynamism including evidence about industry concentration, growth of productive firms, declining diffusion, and displacement of industry leaders.
  • Chiara Criscuolo, OECD, “Recent trends in Industry Concentration, Mark-ups and Business Dynamism”
  • John Haltiwanger, Maryland
  • Nicolas Crouzet, Northwestern, “Rents and Intangible Capital: A Q+ Framework”
  • James Bessen, BU, “Declining Disruption”
  • Victor Bennett, Duke, “Changes in Persistence of Performance Over Time”
  • Germán Gutiérrez, NYU
  • John Van Reenen, MIT
11:40AM Labor and Industry Dynamism (including Lunch Panel).
This panel presents research on how labor mobility affects innovation and productivity, how noncompete and other policies affect labor mobility, and how tradable services are affecting the labor market for highly skilled workers.
  • Gerald Marschke, SUNY-Albany, “Worker Mobility and the Decline in Innovation Rates and Diffusion”
  • Sharat Ganapati, Georgetown, “Skilled Tradable Services: The Transformation of U.S. High-Skill Labor Markets”
  • Matt Marx, BU
  • Evan Starr, Maryland
  • Bledi Taska, Burning Glass Technologies
1:15PM Rate and Nature of Innovation.
This panel explores causes of slowing innovation including a shift away from private basic research, a dearth of STEM-led startups, business cycle shifts in the nature of innovation, and a shift from digital general purpose technologies to specialized ones.
  • Benjamin Balsmeier, University of Luxembourg, “Heterogeneous Innovation and the Antifragile Economy”
  • Neil Thompson, MIT, “The Decline of Computers as a General Purpose Technology”
  • Sharon Belenzon, Duke, “The Changing Structure of American Innovation”
  • Serguey Braguinsky, Maryland, “Declining Business Dynamics Among Our Best Opportunities? – Causes and Consequences”
  • John Van Reenen, MIT, “Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?”
3:00PM Intellectual Property.
To what extent have IP changes slowed the diffusion of innovations? This panel looks at strengthening of trade secrecy and patents and the potential role of the Oracle v Google decision.
  • Imke Reimers, Northeastern, “Visibility of Technology and Cumulative Innovation: Evidence from Trade Secrets Laws”
  • Ufuk Akcigit, Chicago
4:05PM Platforms.
To what extent do platforms pose a challenge to innovation? Do they create barriers to entry or do platforms provide a way for small firms to benefit from the Cloud and other large scale technologies?
  • Andrei Hagiu, BU, “Platforms Competing with Their Participants”
  • Kristina McElheran, Toronto, “Economies Before Scale: Survival and Performance of Young Plants in the Age of Cloud Computing”
  • Luigi Zingales, Chicago, “Stigler Committee on Digital Platforms, Final Report”


September 12

8:30AM Theory.
This panel provides a range of theoretical models to explain observed changes. Some focus on the special role of information technology; others on alternative mechanisms including the aging workforce, low interest rates, and a decline in allocative efficiency.
  • Maarten De Ridder, Cambridge (UK), “Market Power and Innovation in the Intangible Economy”
  • Danial Lashkari, Boston College, “Information Technology and Returns to Scale”
  • Gabriel Unger, Harvard, “Scale-Biased Technological Change”
  • Emmanuel Farhi, Harvard, “Productivity and Misallocation in General Equilibrium”
  • Hugo Hopenhayn, UCLA, “The Rise and Fall of Labor Force Growth”
  • Ernest Liu, Princeton, “Low Interest Rates, Market Power, and Productivity Growth”
  • Philippe Aghion, College de France, “A Theory of Falling Growth and Rising Rents”
  • Ufuk Akcigit, Chicago, “Ten Facts on Declining Business Dynamism and Lessons from Endogenous Growth Theory”
11:15AM Acquisitions by Dominant Firms
When a large firm acquires a startup is that good for innovation or bad? What is the evidence on “killer acquisitions” and “kill zones”?
  • Florian Ederer, Yale, “Killer Acquisitions”
  • Andrew McCreary, Stanford, “Exit Strategy”
  • Erik Hovenkamp, USC, “Antitrust Limits on Startup Acquisitions”
  • Geoffrey Manne, International Center for Law & Economics, “Kill Zones! Killer Acquisitions! Stealth Consolidation! Anticompetitive Appropriation!: A Public Policy Perspective”
  • Luigi Zingales, Chicago, “Kill Zone”
12:55PM Antitrust Panel (Lunch).
Can antitrust policy meet the challenge and, if so, how?
  • Herbert Hovenkamp, Penn
  • Jason Furman, Harvard
  • William Kovacic, GW Law
  • Nancy Rose, MIT
  • Michael Salinger, BU
2:25PM Data Panel.
Many people contend that access to data presents a serious obstacle to startups or provides large firms a major advantage. This panel explores industry experience with data, technological solutions to sharing data, and policies such as privacy law and granting property rights in data.
  • Robert Seamans, NYU, “The Business of AI  Startups”
  • Andy Sellars, BU
  • Daniel Faulkner, Plannuh
  • Alberto Cavallo, Harvard, “More Amazon Effects: Online Competition and Pricing Behaviors”
  • Garrett Johnson, BU, “Privacy & Market Concentration: Intended & Unintended Consequences of the GDPR”
4:00PM Conclusion