Nations with fast-growing economies are quicker to embrace new technologies, ahead of an average gap of nearly 50 years between an invention and its adoption, according to a new study.

The study, led by Harvard Business School researchers, examined the adoption rates of everything from steamships to the Internet in 166 countries over the past two centuries. It found an average lag of 47 years between an invention and its adoption, though rates varied widely depending on the state of a nation's economy.    

While surprisingly slow, the pace of technology adoption worldwide has steadily increased over time, researchers found.

According to the study, the U.S. and U.K. have been technological leaders over the last two centuries, with both embracing new technologies ahead of the rest of the world. "The shorter adoption lags have surely contributed to their high levels of productivity and per capita income," researchers said.

Likewise, economic booms in Japan, South Korea, Singapore and other Asian nations correlate with periods of faster technological adoption, the study found.

By contrast, Sub-Saharan nations with lower per capita income have taken longer to adopt new technologies, the study found. On average, nations in this region took 30 years longer than the global average to develop a telegraph system, and 10 years longer for a telephone system, according to the study.