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Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine

Alessandro Nuvolari
Cambridge Journal of Economics
Vol. 28, No. 3 (May 2004), pp. 347-363
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23603566
Page Count: 17
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Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine
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Abstract

This paper argues that what Robert Allen has termed collective invention settings (that is, settings in which competing firms share technological knowledge) were a crucial source of innovation during the early phases of industrialisation. Until now this has been very little considered in the literature, which has focused on the patent system as the main institutional arrangement driving the rate of innovation. The paper presents one of these collective invention settings, the Cornish mining district, in detail. It studies the specific economic and technical circumstances that led to the emergence of this collective invention setting and analyses its consequences on the rate of technological innovation.

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