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R&D Competition in an Asymmetric Cournot Duopoly: The Welfare Effects of Catch-Up by the Laggard Firm


  • Ben Ferrett

    () (School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University, UK)


The substantial within-industry variation in firm productivity typically observed in the data suggests that there is ample scope for catch-up by laggard firms. We analyse the normative effects of such catch-up. In the short run, where firms’ process technologies are fixed, catch-up can reduce social welfare if the initial unit-cost gap between firms is sufficiently large (the Lahiri/Ono effect). However, in the long run, where firms invest in process R&D to maximize profits, social welfare jumps upwards following catch-up if it causes the major firm’s R&D spending lead to grow. Both qualitative insights appear quite general.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Ferrett, 2012. "R&D Competition in an Asymmetric Cournot Duopoly: The Welfare Effects of Catch-Up by the Laggard Firm," Discussion Paper Series 2012_05, Department of Economics, Loughborough University, revised Apr 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:lbo:lbowps:2012_05

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Donald Smythe & Jingang Zhao, 2006. "The Complete Welfare Effects of Cost Reductions in a Cournot Oligopoly," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 181-193, March.
    2. James A. Brander & Barbara J. Spencer, 1983. "Strategic Commitment with R&D: The Symmetric Case," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 225-235, Spring.
    3. Rachel Griffith & Stephen Redding & Helen Simpson, 2004. "Foreign Ownership and Productivity: New Evidence from the Service Sector and the R&D Lab," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(3), pages 440-456, Autumn.
    4. Mills, David E. & Smith, William, 1996. "It pays to be different: Endogenous heterogeneity of firms in an oligopoly," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 317-329, May.
    5. Greg Shaffer & Stephen W. Salant, 1999. "Unequal Treatment of Identical Agents in Cournot Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 585-604, June.
    6. Tandon, Pankaj, 1984. "Innovation, Market Structure, and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 394-403, June.
    7. Kamien, Morton I & Muller, Eitan & Zang, Israel, 1992. "Research Joint Ventures and R&D Cartels," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1293-1306, December.
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    More about this item


    asymmetric duopoly; catch-up; social welfare; process R&D.;

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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