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The Role of Information in Competitive Experimentation

  • Ufuk Akcigit


    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Qingmin Liu


    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

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    Technological progress is typically a result of trial-and-error research by competing firms. While some research paths lead to the innovation sought, others result in dead ends. Because firms benefit from their competitors working in the wrong direction, they do not reveal their dead-end findings. Time and resources are wasted on projects that other firms have already found to be dead ends. Consequently, technological progress is slowed down, and the society benefits from innovations with delay, if ever. To study this prevalent problem, we build a tractable two-arm bandit model with two competing firms. The risky arm could potentially lead to a dead end and the safe arm introduces further competition to make firms keep their dead-end findings private. We characterize the equilibrium in this decentralized environment and show that the equilibrium necessarily entails significant efficiency losses due to wasteful dead-end replication and a flight to safety - an early abandonment of the risky project. Finally, we design a dynamic mechanism where firms are incentivized to disclose their actions and share their private information in a timely manner. This mechanism restores efficiency and suggests a direction for welfare improvement.

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    Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 11-038.

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    Length: 58 pages
    Date of creation: 08 Nov 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:11-038
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    1. Gerard Llobet & Hugo A. Hopenhayn & Matthew F. Mitchell, 2000. "Rewarding sequential innovators: prizes, patents and buyouts," Staff Report 273, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    2. Harris, Christopher & Howitt, Peter & Vickers, John & Aghion, Philippe, 2001. "Competition, Imitation and Growth with Step-by-Step Innovation," Scholarly Articles 12375013, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    3. Dinah Rosenberg & Eilon Solan & Nicolas Vieille, 2004. "Social Learning in One-Arm Bandit Problems," Discussion Papers 1396, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    4. Godfrey Keller & Martin Cripps, 2003. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Economics Series Working Papers 143, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Hugo A. Hopenhayn & Francesco Squintani, 2011. "Preemption Games with Private Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 667-692.
    6. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth Through Creative Destruction," Scholarly Articles 12490578, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    7. Hugo Hopenhayn & Matthew Mitchell, 2010. "OptimalPatent Policy with Recurrent Innovators," 2010 Meeting Papers 1313, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Bruno Strulovici, 2010. "Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 933-971, 05.
    9. Moscarini, Giuseppe & Squintani, Francesco, 2010. "Competitive experimentation with private information: The survivor's curse," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(2), pages 639-660, March.
    10. Dirk Bergemann & Juuso Valimaki, 2006. "Bandit Problems," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1551, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    11. Kaylan Chatterjee & Robert Evans, 2004. "Rivals' Search for Buried Treasure: Competition and Duplication in R&D," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(1), pages 160-183, Spring.
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