Technology and Geography in a Paradigm Shift: The Case of Critical & Conflict Materials in ICT

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On the 24th of February, City-REDI held its first external seminar of 2021, featuring Professor Simona Iammarino from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The seminar was called “Technology and geography in a paradigm shift: the case of Critical & Conflict Materials in ICT” and was co-authored by Andreas Diemer, Richard Perkins & Axel Gros.


Critical raw materials – including so-called conflict minerals – (CCMs), their combination, and ultimate use in new types of electronic and electrical products are providing a crucial material infrastructure to the technological paradigm shift from ICTs to AI.

Yet, missing from the literature is work that examines how technological change is shaping the demand for these resources, and how the geography of CCM-intensive technologies is associated with that of the sourcing of related material inputs. Using the universe of USPTO patents between 1975 and 2017, the paper combines keyword-occurrence analysis and regression methods to uncover relationships between CCMs and patented technologies.

Our explorative analysis shows a significant increase in the overall technological activity related to CCMs; a particularly strong association between ICT technological applications and CCMs; significant spatial disparities between countries/regions where a large amount of CCMs are extracted and the (few) subnational locations where most of the returns to technological innovation are appropriated.

Summary of the event
  • Little is known about how technological change is shaping the demand for critical and conflict minerals (CCMs). Furthermore, which are the demand –supply implications for the geography of the resources.
  • This study attempts to fill this gap by carrying out an exploratory study (work in progress).
  • Using the data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) patents from 1975 to 2017, the study combines different methods such as data mining and regression methods to explore the relationships between CCMs and patented technologies.
  • The study focus on the following CCMs: Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG), Cobalt and Lithium.
  • Findings include a disparity between the global south and north and also the concentration of technological demand in very few locations (monopolies).

Upcoming City-REDI Seminars:
Date Speaker Organisation Seminar title  
8th March Professor Kevin Morgan Cardiff Business School, UK Unusual suspects: the role of municipalities in catalysing innovation Book a place
24th March Dr Bertha Rohenkohl The University of Sheffield, UK Intergenerational Income Mobility in the UK: New evidence using the BHPS and Understanding Society Book a place
21st April Dr Katy Jones Manchester Metropolitan University, UK Active labour market policy in a post-Covid UK: moving beyond a ‘Work First’ approach Book a place
28th April Dr Stephen Fisher University of Oxford, UK Socio-political consequences of regional economic divergence in Britain: 1983-2018 Book a place
5th May Dr Michael Wyrwich University of Groningen, Netherlands Cross‑faculty proximity and academic entrepreneurship: The role of business schools Book a place
19th May Dr Levi Wolf University of Bristol, UK Space and place in predictive models Book a place
2nd June Dr Rhiannon Pugh CIRCLE, Lund University, Sweden The changing roles of universities during the Covid crisis Book a place
16th June Beatriz Jambrina Canseco, PhD LSE, UK The stories we tell ourselves: Local newspaper reporting and support for the radical right Book a place

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