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Structural Holes, Innovation and the Distribution of Ideas

  • Cowan, Robin



  • Jonard, Nicolas


    (Université de Luxembourg)

We model knowledge diffusion in a population of agents situated on a network, interacting only over direct ties. Some agents are by nature traders, others are by nature "givers": traders demand a quid pro quo for information transfer; givers do not. We are interested in efficiency of diffusion and explore the interplay between the structure of the population (proportion of traders), the network structure (clustering, path length and degree distribution), and the scarcity of knowledge. We find that at the global level, trading (as opposed to giving) reduces efficiency. At the individual level, highly connected agents do well when knowledge is scarce, agents in clustered neighbourhoods do well when it is abundant. The latter finding is connected to the debate on structural holes and social capital.

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Paper provided by United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) in its series MERIT Working Papers with number 039.

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Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unm:unumer:2006039
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  1. Werker, C. & Brenner, T., 2004. "Empirical calibration of simulation models," Working Papers 04.13, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
  2. von Hippel, Eric, 1987. "Cooperation between rivals: Informal know-how trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 291-302, December.
  3. Cowan Robin & Jonard Nicolas, 1999. "Network Structure and the Diffusion of Knowledge," Research Memorandum 026, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  4. Hicks, Diana, 1995. "Published Papers, Tacit Competencies and Corporate Management of the Public/Private Character of Knowledge," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 401-24.
  5. Joel A. C. Baum & Andrew V. Shipilov & Tim J. Rowley, 2003. "Where do small worlds come from?," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 697-725, August.
  6. Jaffe, Adam B & Trajtenberg, Manuel & Henderson, Rebecca, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-98, August.
  7. Schrader, Stephan, 1991. "Informal technology transfer between firms: Cooperation through information trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 153-170, April.
  8. Cowan, R. & Jonard, N., 2003. "The dynamics of collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 513-532, December.
  9. Maryann Feldman, 1999. "The New Economics Of Innovation, Spillovers And Agglomeration: Areview Of Empirical Studies," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(1-2), pages 5-25.
  10. Granstrand, Ove & Sjolander, Soren, 1990. "Managing innovation in multi-technology corporations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 35-60, February.
  11. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
  12. Cohen, Wesley M & Levinthal, Daniel A, 1989. "Innovation and Learning: The Two Faces of R&D," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(397), pages 569-96, September.
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