The acquisition and commercialization of invention in American manufacturing: Incidence and impact

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Scholarly Edition

© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Recent accounts suggest the development and commercialization of invention has become more "open." Greater division of labor between inventors and innovators can enhance social welfare through gains from trade and economies of specialization. Moreover, this extensive reliance upon outside sources for invention also suggests that understanding the factors that condition the extramural supply of inventions to innovators is crucial to understanding the determinants of the rate and direction of innovative activity. This paper reports on a recent survey of over 5000 American manufacturing sector firms on the extent to which innovators rely upon external sources of invention. Our results indicate that, between 2007 and 2009, 16% of manufacturing firms had innovated-meaning had introduced a product that was new to the industry. Of these, 49% report that their most important new product had originated from an outside source, notably customers, suppliers and technology specialists (i.e., universities, independent inventors and R&D contractors). We also compare the contribution of each source to innovation in the US economy. Although customers are the most common outside source, inventions acquired from technology specialists tend to be the more economically significant in term of their gross commercial value. As a group, external sources of invention make a significant contribution to the overall rate of innovation in the economy. Innovation policies, both public and private, should pay careful attention to the external supply of invention, and the efficiency of the mechanisms affecting the relationships between inventors and innovators.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Arora, A; Cohen, WM; Walsh, JP

Published Date

  • July 1, 2016

Start / End Page

  • 1113 - 1128

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.respol.2016.02.005

Citation Source

  • Scopus