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Collective Invention and Inventor Networks

In: Handbook of the Economics of Innovation

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  • Powell, Walter W.
  • Giannella, Eric

Abstract

Collective invention occurs when competing organizations share knowledge about the design and development of new technologies. Such exchange and circulation of ideas and practices among communities of inventors was relatively common in the nineteenth century, most notably in geographically localized industrial districts. This collective system of innovation was eclipsed in the early and mid-twentieth century by the rise to prominence of the large corporate R&D lab. Recent decades, however, have seen the decline of stand-alone, internal corporate labs and the resurgence of collective efforts by networks of inventors, distributed across organizations and spanning distant locations. We draw on literatures in economics, innovation studies, management, and sociology to posit explanations for this recent rise. Suggestive additional evidence is provided from comparative analyses of patent data from the 1970s and the present decade.

Suggested Citation

  • Powell, Walter W. & Giannella, Eric, 2010. "Collective Invention and Inventor Networks," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, in: Bronwyn H. Hall & Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 575-605, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:haechp:v1_575
    DOI: 10.1016/S0169-7218(10)01013-0
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