Want to invent something for your country ahead of its time? Well, doing so will be possible in Victoria 3, just unlikely to be probable is all. with the Era system in place.
All technology is organized into Eras, which are rough estimates of progress through the game’s timespan. Anything in Era I is considered pre-1836 technology, going back as far as the very idea of Rationalism to the invention of Steelworking. Era II ranges from the start of the game to around the 1860s - Railways and Percussion Cap ammunition both belong here, though some countries did have railways a little earlier than 1836; this is not an exact science.
Era III runs from the early 1860s to the end of the 1880s and includes Civilizing Mission as a justification for colonization and Pumpjacks, heralding the rise of the oil industry. Era IV from late 1880 to the early 20th century includes both War Propaganda and Film, both of which might make it easier to justify the horrors which are to come in Era V - including Battleships, Chemical Warfare, and Stormtroopers.
Era V also sees truly modern civilian inventions such as the Oil Turbine to make Electricity from Oil and Paved Roads to improve your national infrastructure.
The Eras act as an indicator of roughly where you are at in a given tree but also serves a role in ensuring that rushing a certain late-game technology is difficult. Not only do technologies in later Eras take more innovative effort to research, but each technology you have not yet researched in that tree from previous Eras makes it harder and harder to make progress. This means techs aren’t unlocked on specific years in Victoria 3, and there is never a hard block preventing you from making your Universities develop technologies earlier than they were historically invented.
The final yet crucial point about technological development is that government funding and steering of national research is not the dominant way most countries are exposed to new ideas.