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Innovation, Competition and Welfare-Enhancing Monopoly

  • Michael R. Darby
  • Lynne G. Zucker

The basic competitive model with freely available technology is suited for static industries but misleading as applied to major innovative economies for which development of new technologies equals in magnitude around 10% of gross domestic investment. We distinguish free generic technology from proprietary technologies resulting from risky investment with uncertain outcome. The totality of possible outcomes drives the national innovation system and the returns to a particular successful technology cannot be compared to its own direct investment costs. Eureka moments are hardly ever self-enabling and incentives are required to motivate investment attempting to turn them into an innovation. The alternative to a valuable proprietary innovation is not the same innovation freely available but the unchanged generic technology. Growth is concentrated in any country at any time in a few firms in a few industries that are achieving metamorphic technological progress as a result of breakthrough innovations. So long as the entry and exit of firms using the generic technology sets the price in an industry, one or more price-taking firms can coexist with proprietary technologies yielding more or less substantial quasi-rents to the sunk development costs. Consumer welfare is increased if an innovator creates a proprietary technology such that the market equilibrium price is reduced and output increased. If the technological breakthrough is sufficiently large for the innovator to drive all generic producers out of the industry and increase output as a wealth-maximizing monopolist, consumer welfare is surely increased. After some time, the innovative technology will diffuse into an imitative generic technology. The best innovators develop a stream of innovations so that technological leaders can maintain their status as dominant firm or monopolist for extended periods of time despite lagged diffusion, and consumers benefit from this stream as well. The economics of an innovative nation are different from those of the no-growth stationary state which we teach and fall back on. We propose an ambitious agenda to integrate major research streams treating innovation as an object of economic analysis into our standard models.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12094.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
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Publication status: published as Lynne G. Zucker and Michael R. Darby, “Socio-economic Impact of Nanoscale Science: Initial Results and NanoBank,” in Mihail C. Roco and William S. Bainbridge, eds., Nanotechnology: Societal Implications II — Individual Perspectives , Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2007. [ISBN 1-4020-4658-8, pp. 7-23]
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12094
Note: PR
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  1. Michael R. Darby & Lynne G. Zucker, 2002. "Growing by Leaps and Inches: Creative Destruction, Real Cost Reduction, and Inching Up," NBER Working Papers 8947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Petra Moser, 2003. "How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs," NBER Working Papers 9909, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  4. Mark Doms & Eric J. Bartelsman, 2000. "Understanding Productivity: Lessons from Longitudinal Microdata," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 569-594, September.
  5. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Maximo Torero, 2002. "Labor Mobility from Academe to Commerce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 629-660, July.
  6. He, Kathy S. & Morck, Randall & Yeung, Bernard, 2003. "Corporate Stability and Economic Growth," CEI Working Paper Series 2003-12, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  7. Zucker, Lynne G & Darby, Michael R & Armstrong, Jeff, 1998. "Geographically Localized Knowledge: Spillovers or Markets?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(1), pages 65-86, January.
  8. Michael DARBY & Lynne G. ZUCKER, 2005. "Grilichesian Breakthroughs: Inventions of Methods of Inventing and Firm Entry in Nanotechnology," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 79-80, pages 143-164.
  9. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 287-343 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Zucker, Lynne G & Darby, Michael R & Brewer, Marilynn B, 1998. "Intellectual Human Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 290-306, March.
  12. Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard C. Levin & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1993. "On the Sources and Significance of Interindustry Differences in Technological Opportunities," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1052, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  13. Richard R. Nelson, 1959. "The Simple Economics of Basic Scientific Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67, pages 297.
  14. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. DiMasi, Joseph A. & Hansen, Ronald W. & Grabowski, Henry G., 2003. "The price of innovation: new estimates of drug development costs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 151-185, March.
  16. Harberger, Arnold C, 1998. "A Vision of the Growth Process," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 1-32, March.
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