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Basic Research and Sequential Innovation

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  • Sharon Belenzon

Abstract

The commercial value of basic knowledge depends on the arrival of follow-up developments mostly from outside the boundaries of the inventing firm. Private returns would depend on the extent the inventing firm internalizes these follow-up developments. Such internalization is less likely to occur as knowledge becomes more general. This motivates the historical concern of insufficient private incentive for basic research. The present paper develops a novel empirical methodology of identifying unique patterns of knowledge flows (based on patent citations), which provide information about whether `spilled` knowledge is reabsorbed by its inventor. Using comprehensive data on the largest 500 inventing firms in the US the classical problem of underinvestment in basic research is confirmed: spillovers of more general knowledge (and in this respect, more basic) are less likely to feed back to the inventing firm. This translates to lower private returns, as indicated by the effect of the R&D stock of the firm on its market value.

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  • Sharon Belenzon, 2006. "Basic Research and Sequential Innovation," Economics Series Working Papers 260, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:260
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    Keywords

    Basic Knowledge; Spillovers; Patents; Citation;

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • 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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