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Journal of Industrial Organization Education

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Competition and Innovation

Richard J Gilbert1

1Economics Department, University of California, Berkeley

Citation Information: Journal of Industrial Organization Education. Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 1–23, ISSN (Online) 1935-5041, DOI: 10.2202/1935-5041.1007, December 2006

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A vast and often confusing economics literature relates competition to investment in innovation. Following Joseph Schumpeter, one view is that monopoly and large scale promote investment in research and development by allowing a firm to capture a larger fraction of its benefits and by providing a more stable platform for a firm to invest in R&D. Others argue that competition promotes innovation by increasing the cost to a firm that fails to innovate. This lecture surveys the literature at a level that is appropriate for an advanced undergraduate or graduate class and attempts to identify primary determinants of investment in R&D. Key issues are the extent of competition in product markets and in R&D, the degree of protection from imitators, and the dynamics of R&D competition. Competition in the product market using existing technologies increases the incentive to invest in R&D for inventions that are protected from imitators (e.g., by strong patent rights). Competition in R&D can speed the arrival of innovations. Without exclusive rights to an innovation, competition in the product market can reduce incentives to invest in R&D by reducing each innovator's payoff. There are many complications. Under some circumstances, a firm with market power has an incentive and ability to preempt rivals, and the dynamics of innovation competition can make it unprofitable for others to catch up to a firm that is ahead in an innovation race.

Keywords: R&D; game theory; dynamics

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