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

  • Nuvolari, A.

    (Ecis)

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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Paper provided by Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies in its series Working Papers with number 04.02.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ein:tuecis:0402
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  1. 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.
  2. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-71, September.
  3. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
  4. 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.
  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.
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