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Optimal Design of Research Contests

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  • Yeon-Koo Che

    (University of Wisconsin - Madison)

  • Ian Gale

    (Georgetown University)

Abstract

Many new products (e.g., weapons systems) require substantial innovative effort by suppliers. Procurement of effort through bilateral contracting is often problematic, however, because the effort may be unverifiable and cooperative. That is, a third party cannot verify the level of effort, and the procurer receives a substantial fraction of the value created by the effort. In addition, bankruptcy concerns and legal restrictions limit the ability of the procurer to charge entry fees (we refer to this as limited liability). Procurers often rely on contests in such an environment. For example, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission sponsored a competition to develop the technology for high-definition television. This paper finds the optimal procurement mechanism when unverifiability, cooperativeness and limited liability are present. We accomplish this through the use of a novel duality argument. (The standard mechanism design methodology cannot be used because two mechanisms that are ex post efficient may induce different investment decisions, hence different distributions of types.) Holding an auction with two firms and no reserve price is optimal for the procurer, when the firms have the same technology. When the firms have different technologies, an auction involving the two most efficient firms is optimal, with the more efficient firm being handicapped. This paper contributes to mechanism design theory by incorporating ex ante investment incentives into the mechanism design problem. That is, it finds the optimal mechanism with endogenous types. Recent work on research contests and entry into auctions has incorporated an ex ante dimension, but that work takes the form of contest (auction or tournament) as given.

Suggested Citation

  • Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 2000. "Optimal Design of Research Contests," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1784, Econometric Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:wc2000:1784
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. French, Kenneth R & McCormick, Robert E, 1984. "Sealed Bids, Sunk Costs, and the Process of Competition," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(4), pages 417-441, October.
    2. Cole, Harold L. & Mailath, George J. & Postlewaite, Andrew, 2001. "Efficient Non-Contractible Investments in Large Economies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 101(2), pages 333-373, December.
    3. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    4. Harold L. Cole & George J. Mailath & Andrew Postlewaite, "undated". "Efficient Non-Contractible Investments," Penn CARESS Working Papers 08d6793d32cab8f6e1f46dac0, Penn Economics Department.
    5. Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 2003. "Optimal Design of Research Contests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 646-671, June.
    6. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton, 1992. "An Incomplete Contracts Approach to Financial Contracting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(3), pages 473-494.
    7. Baye, Michael R & Kovenock, Dan & de Vries, Casper G, 1993. "Rigging the Lobbying Process: An Application of the All-Pay Auction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 289-294, March.
    8. Leonardo Felli & Kevin Roberts, 2016. "Does Competition Solve the Hold-up Problem?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(329), pages 172-200, January.
    9. Yeon-Koo Che, 1993. "Design Competition through Multidimensional Auctions," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(4), pages 668-680, Winter.
    10. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
    11. Bag, Parimal Kanti, 1997. "Optimal auction design and R&D," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(9), pages 1655-1674, December.
    12. Dirk Bergemann & Juuso Valimaki, 2002. "Information Acquisition and Efficient Mechanism Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 1007-1033, May.
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