Innovation, Governance and the Institutional Environment
Edited by Birgitte Andersen
Chapter 1: The Market Economy and the Scientific Commons
* Richard R. Nelson ABSTRACT In principle there is a clear divide between science and technology. In practice there isn’t. In principle, while practical inventions can be patented, scientiﬁc ﬁndings can’t be. In practice, increasingly scientiﬁc ﬁndings are being patented. The argument of this paper is that this is bad for the advance of science and for the advance of technology. However, because of the blurry lines, it will not be easy to deal with. The paper lays out a strategy that at least has some promise. Keywords: Markets, Commons, Capitalism 1 INTRODUCTION Modern capitalism has proved a remarkably powerful engine of technological progress. Most of the attention to its workings has focused on the business ﬁrms and entrepreneurs, operating in a market setting, who are the central actors in developing and introducing new products and processes. At the same time it is widely recognized that the power of market stimulated and guided invention and innovation is often dependent on the strength of the science base from which they draw (Nelson, 1993, Mowery and Nelson, 1999). This science base is largely the product of publicly funded research, and the knowledge produced by that research is largely open and available for potential innovators to use. That is, the market part of the capitalist engine rests on a publicly supported scientiﬁc commons. The message of this chapter is that the scientiﬁc commons are becoming privatized. While this privatization up to now has been relatively limited, * Reprinted from Research Policy,...
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