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Social Learning and Innovation Cycles (revision of DP#1516, The Dynamics of Innovation)

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  • Umberto Garfagnini
  • Bruno Strulovici

Abstract

We study social learning and innovation in an overlapping generations model, emphasizing the trade-off between marginal innovation (combining existing technologies) and radical innovation (breaking new ground). We characterize both short-term and long-term dynamics of innovation, and the intergenerational accumulation of knowledge. Innovation cycles emerge endogenously, but the number of cycles is finite almost surely, and radical innovation terminates infinite time. We identify a negative relationship between past successes and the magnitude of radical innovation, combining insights from the multi-armed bandit literature with a spatial representation of innovation. Past successes reduce the incremental value of experimentation, and result in less ambitious innovation. In our framework, patents promote radical innovation through two channels: by increasing the expected benefit of radical innovation and by increasing the cost of marginal innovation. Our analysis suggests that sustaining radical innovation in the long-run requires external intervention.

Suggested Citation

  • Umberto Garfagnini & Bruno Strulovici, 2012. "Social Learning and Innovation Cycles (revision of DP#1516, The Dynamics of Innovation)," Discussion Papers 1546, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1546
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    1. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton & Christopher Harris & Bruno Jullien, 1991. "Optimal Learning by Experimentation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(4), pages 621-654.
    2. Acemoglu, Daron & Gancia, Gino & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2012. "Competing engines of growth: Innovation and standardization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 570-601.3.
    3. Garicano, Luis & Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban, 2012. "Organizing growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 623-656.
    4. McLennan, Andrew, 1984. "Price dispersion and incomplete learning in the long run," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 331-347, September.
    5. Steven Callander, 2011. "Searching and Learning by Trial and Error," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2277-2308, October.
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