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Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine

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  • Alessandro Nuvolari

Abstract

This paper argues that what Robert Allen has termed collective invention settings (that is, settings in which competing firms share technological knowledge) were a crucial source of innovation during the early phases of industrialisation. Until now this has been very little considered in the literature, which has focused on the patent system as the main institutional arrangement driving the rate of innovation. The paper presents one of these collective invention settings, the Cornish mining district, in detail. It studies the specific economic and technical circumstances that led to the emergence of this collective invention setting and analyses its consequences on the rate of technological innovation. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 347-363, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:28:y:2004:i:3:p:347-363
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/cje/beh011
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
    2. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-1171, September.
    3. Merges, Robert P. & Nelson, Richard R., 1994. "On limiting or encouraging rivalry in technical progress: The effect of patent scope decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-24, September.
    4. Naomi R. Lamoreaux & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 1997. "Location and Technological Change in the American Glass Industry During the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries," NBER Working Papers 5938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L61 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Metals and Metal Products; Cement; Glass; Ceramics

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