Technological change, market rivalry, and the evolution of the capitalist engine of growth
In the early stages of Western industrialization, innovation was the domain of individuals who devoted their entrepreneurial talents to the development of a new product or process, typically setting up a new firm in order to take the innovation to the market. Today, commercial R&D is almost exclusively carried out by corporate laboratories affiliated with manufacturing firms. The corporate R&D lab, however, did not exist in its modern form until the late nineteenth century. The history of Western industrialization, thus, suggests that a fundamental change in the structure of incentives, and consequently in the nature and the organization of the R&D process, occurred around the turn of the century. Three questions arise. What is the nature of this change? What economic forces caused it? What are its implications? To answer these questions, I construct a model where this change is endogenous to the evolution of the economy toward industrial maturity. The change in the locus of innovation - from R&D undertaken by intventor-entrepreneurs, to R&D undertaken within established firms in close proximity to the production line - results from the interaction of market structure and technological change. This interaction captures the essence of the evolution of the capitalist engine of growth and provides an economic explanation of a "stylized fact" that has received no attention in the theoretical literature. The endogenous market structure generates dynamic feedbacks that shape the growth path of the economy and determine the structural change it undergoes, including the endogenous formation of corporate R&D labs. The evolution of market rivalry explains when and how established firms become the major locus of R&D activity. © 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
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