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The Role of Information in Competitive Experimentation

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  • Ufuk Akcigit
  • Qingmin Liu
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    Abstract

    Technological progress is typically a result of trial-and-error research by competing firms. While some research paths lead to the innovation sought, others result in dead ends. Because firms benefit from their competitors working in the wrong direction, they do not reveal their dead-end findings. Time and resources are wasted on projects that other firms have already found to be dead ends. Consequently, technological progress is slowed down, and the society benefits from innovations with delay, if ever. To study this prevalent problem, we build a tractable two-arm bandit model with two competing firms. The risky arm could potentially lead to a dead end and the safe arm introduces further competition to make firms keep their dead-end findings private. We characterize the equilibrium in this decentralized environment and show that the equilibrium necessarily entails significant efficiency losses due to wasteful dead-end replication and a flight to safety – an early abandonment of the risky project. Finally, we design a dynamic mechanism where firms are incentivized to disclose their actions and share their private information in a timely manner. This mechanism restores efficiency and suggests a direction for welfare improvement.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17602.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17602

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    References

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    1. Dinah Rosenberg & Eilon Solan & Nicolas Vieille, 2007. "Social Learning in One-Arm Bandit Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(6), pages 1591-1611, November.
    2. Godfrey Keller & Sven Rady & Martin Cripps, 2005. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 39-68, 01.
    3. Gerard Llobet & Hugo Hopenhayn & Matthew Mitchell, 2003. "Rewarding Sequential Innovators: Prizes, Patents and Buyouts," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000682, David K. Levine.
    4. Bruno Strulovici, 2010. "Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 933-971, 05.
    5. Kaylan Chatterjee & Robert Evans, 2004. "Rivals' Search for Buried Treasure: Competition and Duplication in R&D," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(1), pages 160-183, Spring.
    6. Hugo Hopenhayn & Matthew Mitchell, 2010. "OptimalPatent Policy with Recurrent Innovators," 2010 Meeting Papers 1313, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Francesco Squintani & Hugo Hopenhayn, 2005. "Preemption Games with Private Information," 2005 Meeting Papers 80, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Moscarini, Giuseppe & Squintani, Francesco, 2010. "Competitive experimentation with private information: The survivor's curse," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(2), pages 639-660, March.
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    Cited by:
    1. Kaustav Das, 2013. "Strategic Experimentation with Heterogeneous Agents and Payoff Externalities," Discussion Papers 1315, Exeter University, Department of Economics.

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