The Economics of Crisis Innovation Policy: A Historical Perspective
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers, researchers, and journalists have made comparisons to World War II. In 1940, a group of top US science administrators organized a major coordinated research effort to support the Allied war effort, including significant investments in medical research that yielded innovations like mass-produced penicillin, antimalarials, and a flu vaccine. We draw on this episode to discuss the economics of crisis innovation. Since the objectives of crisis R&D are different than ordinary R&D, we argue that appropriate R&D policy in a crisis requires going beyond the standard Nelson-Arrow framework for research policy.
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