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

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  • Nuvolari, A.

    (Ecis)

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that together with individual inventors and firms, what Robert C. Allen (1983) has termed as collective invention settings (that is settings in which rival firms freely release each other pertinent technical information), were also a crucial source of innovation in the industrial revolution period. Until now, this has been very little considered in the literature. This paper focuses on one of these cases: the Cornish mining district. In Cornwall, during the early nineteenth century, a notable collective invention setting, gradually emerged. This case is particularly remarkable because it was capable of generating a continuous and sustained flow of improvements in steam pumping technology which in the end greatly contributed to improve the thermodynamic efficiency of the steam engine. In this paper we study in detail the specific economic circumstances that led to the formation of this collective invention setting and we analyses its consequences for the rate of technological innovation
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Suggested Citation

  • Nuvolari, A., 2004. "Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine," Working Papers 04.02, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ein:tuecis:0402
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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. 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.
    3. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
    4. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-1171, September.
    5. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    pump enigine; industrial revolution; collective invention;

    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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