Matt Clancy

Innovation / Economics / Agriculture

Photo by Carl Wycoff (Creative Commons)

I am a writer, researcher, and educator on the economics of innovation at Iowa State University, and a progress studies fellow at Emergent Ventures at the Mercatus Center.


New Things Under the Sun is a free newsletter about recent-ish research on the economics of innovation, science of science, creativity, and discovery. It is written to be accessible to non-specialists, but with enough depth for readers to understand the methods and evidence for claims made. Thanks to generous support from Emergent Ventures at the Mercatus Center, New Things Under the Sun is published every other Tuesday during 2021. You can subscribe to get it sent to your email at this link, or follow the RSS feed at this link. Some popular posts are:

I’ve also written a bit for a general audience:

Mostly I use the newsletter now to write, but I still occasionally maintain a blog on wider topics in the economics of innovation. Some popular posts:

I’ve also written a series of research digests on important articles in the economics of innovation that lacked an accessible overview.


Pulls together recent research from multiple social science sub-disciplines to argue remote work is both desirable and likely to become more prevalent.

The Roots of Agricultural Innovation: Patent Evidence of Knowledge Spillovers (with Paul Heisey, Yongjie Ji, and GianCarlo Moschini) (2019)

Evidence that the majority of knowledge used in agricultural innovation is typically derived from outside of agriculture. Measures knowledge flows with citations to patents/articles, and by novel text.

Quantitative & qualitative overview of incentives to develop new drugs in veterinary medicine, with an emphasis on similarities and differences with human medicine.

Innovation studied as combinations of patent classifications; absent continuous discovery of novel connections between technologies, innovation can be exhausted.

US patents exhibit fewer novel connections between technologies and spillovers across fields; quantifies the impact on future innovation.

Applied theory paper showing quantity mandates (e.g., “must use X gallons of biofuel in 2020”) provide weaker incentives for radical innovation than carbon taxes, but stronger incentives for incremental innovation.

A review of the literature on IP in biological innovation in agriculture, situating it in the broader literature on whether IP promotes or retards innovation.

A review of the literature on incentivizing R&D, going beyond intellectual property rights.

For a full list of research, click the research tab above.


My classes (at Iowa State University):

  • The Economics of Innovation (ECON 383X): A class for undergraduates with a minimum economic background, framed around the question “Will innovation solve humanity’s most important challenges?” Each class covers a relevant topic through the lens of recent scholarship. Click here to see the reading list.
  • Industrial Organization (ECON 416): Upper level undergraduate class on economics where firms seek or have market power.
  • Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON 301): Calculus based microeconomics.
  • Principles of Microeconomics (ECON 101): An introduction to economics. Uses the CORE Econ book.

I also run Change-Maker Academy, an extracurricular program for undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship, leadership, and making a difference in ag and rural economies (we encourage people from other backgrounds to join!). The program is part of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program.

About Me

Currently, I’m an assistant teaching professor at Iowa State University affiliated with the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Department of Economics.

Before that, I was a research economist at the US Department of Agriculture in Washington DC, where I worked on science policy issues.

Prior to that I did a PhD in Economics at Iowa State University, an MSc at the London School of Economics, worked as an analyst in London, and did a Diploma in Economics at the University of Cambridge.


Twitter: @mattsclancy