Victoria 3 – Innovation and Tech Penalties Guide

If you’re dying to learn about the arcane tech penalty involved with innovation and how it affects you, look no further.

Guide to Innovation and Tech Penalties

A Brief Overview of the Terms

Howdy, I’m writing this guide so it can function as a resource for other players if they express a strong desire to learn about learning in a video game. So let’s learn.

There are two primary methods of obtaining technologies: directly, and indirectly. Directly is the self-directed method of picking your current research. Indirectly refers to the technologies you receive via tech spread.


As the tooltip covers, innovation is simple and straightforward. All nations generate a base rate of 50 innovation per week. This value is unchanging, and caps out at 200 innovation. This cap is determined by multiplying your country’s literacy rate by 1.5x, providing up to 150 from 100% literacy. However, literacy does not provide any direct innovation. For that, you need to build universities, which initially provide 2 innovation per level at the beginning of the game. Depending on your starting literacy and economy, just building 5 universities at game start can provide you with a 20% tech boost (50 to 60).

Innovation Cap

The innovation cap is also an important variable to know about as well, since many may believe the innovation cap to be the absolute limit for how many universities you should build. But in reality, any surplus innovation points you don’t benefit directly from here, are redistributed to bolster your weekly technology spread. However, an extremely important point to be aware of is that technology spread can only occur if another country in the world has researched it. It won’t matter if you build 1,000 universities if nobody’s researched tanks — you’re not getting tanks.

Technology Spread

As you can see in the screenshot (from the same country at start), technology spread is modified by your free speech laws (Protected Speech gives +25% modifier), if you’re an isolationist country, a great power or not, and your literacy value, scaled to 75% of the max. This means that without any modifiers factored in, your max baseline spread is 100 points, or half of your active research project. Protected Speech bumps this up by 25%, along with any unused innovation points from your universities. Incidentally, this is what happens when you don’t immediately pick a tech project: those points get added to the technologies being researched via spread.

It’s not in the screenshot above, but once you hit your direct innovation cap, all surplus points are not wasted, but redirected to technology spread. So if your economy can support it, building up your universities to gain more simultaneous technologies may be a viable approach.

A Brief Look at the Tech Penalty

We’ve all been there: you’re researching techs, but some cost 23 months, others cost 36 months, and for some reason the last tier will take 83 years? What? Fear not, citizen. For it is through some quick maths that you shall come to learn how this penalty is calculated.

The Tech Penalty

In short, every single technology beyond the first tier of technologies has an associated technology penalty if you don’t finish the entire previous tier. This penalty is dependent on two factors: how many techs aren’t finished, and how many tiers you’re jumping. If you’re only skipping a couple of techs, the added cost isn’t too onerous. But if you’re trying to cut through T2 and T3 to get a T4 tech, you’re likely in for a bad time.

Base Costs of Tech

  • Tier 1 – 5000
  • Tier 2 – 7500
  • Tier 3 – 10000
  • Tier 4 – 12500
  • Tier 5 – 15000

Tech Cost Formula

Tech’s Additional Cost = Tech Base Cost * (X * 0.25) (Y)

Where X is the number of unfinished technologies of the previous tier, and Y is the number of tiers being skipped. The base cost is the base cost of the tech being researched, not the unfinished tech.

Let’s take a T3 tech as an example, which has a base cost of 10k, and look at a scenario where you beeline a T3 Society tech, ignoring the 12 other techs on T2 (giving us 1/13 researched). Here’s what the added cost would look like:

  • Z = 10000 * (12 * 0.25) (1)
  • Z = 10000 * (3)
  • Z = 30000

This gives us a total cost of 40k, or 4x as much as the tech would cost had we just finished the rest of the tier. A more useful way to look at the numbers is how many techs you could have finished with the same amount of innovation:

  • 30k excess (12 unfinished techs) is equal to 4 T2 techs.
  • 20k excess (8 unfinished techs) is equal to 2.6 T2 techs.
  • 10k excess (4 unfinished techs) is equal to 1.3 T2 techs.

As you can see with how base tech cost scales in each tier, this ratio shouldn’t change.

Some Other Brief Numbers

Since this is all meant to act as a handy resource, I’ve also compiled some other helpful numbers here. Of course, since everyone starts with parts of T1 and T2 finished, depending on who you’re playing, this list will vary a bit in the early tiers. Given this fact, I’ve also added together all T3 to T5 tech costs, just so you have a better idea of how much innovation you need.

Innovation per Level, per Tech

Production Tech

  • T1 Techs: 8 = 40k
  • T2 Techs: 13 = 97.5k
  • T3 Techs: 16 =160k
  • T4 Techs: 14 = 175k
  • T5 Techs: 5 = 75k

T3+T4+T5 = 410k innovation

Military Tech

  • T1 Techs: 12 = 60k
  • T2 Techs 10 = 75k
  • T3 Techs: 13 = 130k
  • T4 Techs: 12 = 150k
  • T5 Techs: 10 = 150k

T3+T4+T5 = 430k innovation

Society Tech

  • T1 Techs: 18 = 90k
  • T2 Techs: 13 = 97.5k
  • T3 Techs: 11 = 110k
  • T4 Techs: 9 = 112.5k
  • T5 Techs: 8 = 120k

T3+T4+T5 = 332.5k innovation


Taken together, all T3-T5 techs will cost 1,172,500 innovation.

With a base spread of 50 innovation per week, and not taking technology spread into account at all, this would take 450 years to finish. If doubled to 100 base, this is shaved down to 225 years. And if doubled again to the 200 direct innovation cap, 112 years. Mind you, this is just Tier 3 to Tier 5 tech, and without spread. This underscores the importance of tech spread in helping to remove tech penalties across the entire game. It might not help you get tanks by the end, but it can help cut down on unfinished techs so you can focus on it if that’s your goal.

The Numbers in Brief

Here’s the actual wording of the code, just so you can look at what it says. Progress bonuses appear to refer to the specific event rewards for journal entries, such as the ‘Establish a University’ entry giving 1650 innovation for medical degrees or empiricism.

era_1 = { #Pre-1836
technology_cost = 5000 # for progress bonuses, use an approximate third: 1650}

era_2 = { #1836-1861
technology_cost = 7500 # for progress bonuses, use a third: 2500}

era_3 = { #1862-1886
technology_cost = 10000 # for progress bonuses, use an approximate third: 3000}

era_4 = { #1887-1911
technology_cost = 12500 # for progress bonuses, use an approximate third: 4000}

era_5 = { #1911-1936
technology_cost = 15000 # for progress bonuses, use a third: 5000}

TECH_AHEAD_OF_TIME_PENALTY_FACTOR = 0.25 # For every tech in a previous era not already researched in this category, take this multiple of the cost as an additional penalty (multiplied by number of eras between the techs)

A Brief Look at Event Choices

This section is just for event comparisons between university throughput or raw innovation, since the first major one a lot of players will run into is the reward from ‘Establish a University’, which triggers once 3 universities are built in the same state. Initially, my gut reaction was to take the throughput bonus, since more research is always better, right?

As it turns out, that wasn’t actually the case.

This is because early on, if you aren’t building a considerable number of universities early on, you actually take a substantially lower amount of innovation compared to one of the two tech options. The decision gives you a 25% university throughput bonus for 5 years, or 1650 progress in Medical Degrees or Empiricism (33% progress, not counting possible spread).

But a university only provides 2 innovation per level at default production methods. So if I built 5 universities, as I do early on as Japan, I’m only getting 10 (or maybe slightly more, if university throughput affects innovation numbers. I don’t think so though) innovation per week. So that 25% bonus only amounts to 2.5 innovation gained. We then multiply this by 52 and 5, giving us a grand total of 650 innovation. Or at base innovation rates, 13 weeks of progress (or with the 5 universities, just under 11 weeks of progress).

This is compared to the tech options, which give 1650 innovation.

As such, you would need to build 13 universities to generate enough raw innovation (6.5; 0.5 per level of university) to be meaningfully boosted by the 25% output bonus to be superior to the direct tech option. This also doesn’t take into consideration the build times needed for the additional 10 universities (the event fires at 3, no matter what, with a 90-day delay), so the real number of universities need initially would be higher.

In reality though, you’re limited by how many universities you can field by the strength of your economy. For example, Japan can’t build 15 universities early on, or they’ll bankrupt themselves. As such, it’s up to you to decide your tech priorities, and if that minor boost outweighs the higher flat boost.

A Brief Outro

That’s all I got. Innovation is a pretty important stat, whether directly applied or indirectly via technology spread. It’s difficult to judge the precise impact of technology spread, but it’s clearly vital to getting all techs before the game ends— which I’ll steadfastly maintain is far too short. And regardless of innovation rates, the strength of your economy is the most important variable in the game, as there’s no point building them early on if you can’t even support them without going broke (as non-GPs suffer huge interest penalties). So this is a decision that’ll always depend on your personal comfort levels, economy, and overall plan for innovation.

Egor Opleuha
About Egor Opleuha 6969 Articles
Egor Opleuha, also known as Juzzzie, is the Editor-in-Chief of Gameplay Tips. He is a writer with more than 12 years of experience in writing and editing online content. His favorite game was and still is the third part of the legendary Heroes of Might and Magic saga. He prefers to spend all his free time playing retro games and new indie games.


  1. I had intuited most of this but the section on surplus points makes me a lot happier since I don’t need to worry about getting a science by the end of the week anymore.

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