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Inventing Prizes: A Historical Perspective on Innovation Awards and Technology Policy

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  • B. Zorina Khan

Abstract

Prizes for innovations are currently experiencing a renaissance, following their marked decline during the nineteenth century. However, Daguerre’s “patent buyout,” the longitude prize, inducement prizes for butter substitutes and billiard balls, the activities of the Royal Society of Arts and other “encouragement” institutions, all comprise historically inaccurate and potentially misleading case studies. Daguerre, for instance, never obtained a patent in France and, instead, lobbied for government support in a classic example of rent-seeking. This paper surveys empirical research using more representative samples drawn from Britain, France, and the United States, including “great inventors” and their ordinary counterparts, and prizes at industrial exhibitions. The results suggest that administered systems of rewards to innovators suffered from a number of disadvantages in design and practice, some of which might be inherent to their non-market orientation. These findings in part explain why innovation prizes lost favour as a technology policy instrument in both the United States and Europe in the period of industrialization and economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Zorina Khan, 2015. "Inventing Prizes: A Historical Perspective on Innovation Awards and Technology Policy," NBER Working Papers 21375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21375
    Note: DAE DEV LE POL PR
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21375.pdf
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. “Inventing Prizes: A Historical Perspective on Innovation Awards and Technology Policy,” B. Z. Khan (2015)
      by afinetheorem in A Fine Theorem on 2015-08-07 03:21:23
    2. 'Inventing Prizes: A Historical Perspective on Innovation Awards and Technology Policy'
      by Mark Thoma in Economist's View on 2015-08-07 13:54:34

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    Cited by:

    1. Saiz, Patricio & Amengual, Rafael, 2016. "Knowledge Disclosure, Patent Management, and the Four-Stroke Engine Business," Working Papers in Economic History 2016/02, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N80 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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