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date: 25 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In the study of innovation, the word diffusion is commonly used to describe the process by which individuals and firms in a society/economy adopt a new technology, or replace an older technology with a newer. But diffusion is not only the means by which innovations become useful by being spread throughout a population, it is also an intrinsic part of the innovation process, as learning, imitation, and feedback effects which arise during the spread of a new technology enhance the original innovation. This article provides an historical and comparative perspective on diffusion that looks at the broad determinants: economic, social, and institutional. The ways in which the different social scientific disciplines think about diffusion is discussed and a framework is presented for studying its determinants. Some of the empirical evidence on these determinants is reviewed, and a range of examples are also given.

Keywords: innovation, diffusion, technology, learning, imitation, feedback

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