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Strategic Delay in a Real Options Model of R&D Competition


  • Helen Weeds


This paper considers irreversible investment in competing research projects with uncertain returns under a winner-takes-all patent system. Uncertainty takes two distinct forms: the technological success of the project is probabilistic, while the economic value of the patent to be won evolves stochastically over time. According to the theory of real options uncertainty generates an option value of delay, but with two competing firms the fear of preemption would appear to undermine this approach. In non-cooperative equilibrium two patterns of investment emerge depending on parameter values. In a pre-emptive leaderfollower equilibrium firms invest sequentially and option values are reduced by competition. A symmetric outcome may also occur, however, in which investment is more delayed than the single-firm counterpart. Comparing this with the optimal cooperative investment pattern, investment is found to be more delayed when firms act non-cooperatively as each holds back from investing in the fear of starting a patent race. Implications of the analysis for empirical and policy issues in R&D are considered. Copyright 2002, Wiley-Blackwell.

Suggested Citation

  • Helen Weeds, 2002. "Strategic Delay in a Real Options Model of R&D Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(3), pages 729-747.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:69:y:2002:i:3:p:729-747

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1981. "On the Diffusion of New Technology: A Game Theoretic Approach," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 395-405.
    2. Dutta, Prajit K & Rustichini, Aldo, 1993. "A Theory of Stopping Time Games with Applications to Product Innovations and Asset Sales," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 3(4), pages 743-763, October.
    3. Jay P. Choi, 1991. "Dynamic R&D Competition under "Hazard Rate" Uncertainty," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 596-610, Winter.
    4. Pindyck, Robert S, 1988. "Irreversible Investment, Capacity Choice, and the Value of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 969-985, December.
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    9. Fudenberg, Drew & Gilbert, Richard & Stiglitz, Joseph & Tirole, Jean, 1983. "Preemption, leapfrogging and competition in patent races," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-31, June.
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    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


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