On optimal regimes of knowledge exchange: a model of recombinant growth and firm networks

Ivan Savin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The literature has documented two patterns of knowledge exchange: free sharing of knowledge and barter exchange. The former has been coined as collective invention, while the latter is observed in the form of R&D alliance. This study, for the first time, compares these two modes of cooperation in creating and diffusing new knowledge. Doing so, we take seriously the network character of knowledge and the skewed distribution of innovation size by proposing a novel model. In this model, knowledge is represented by distinct letters and words constructed thereof and accumulated by agents over time. Discovering new words agents recombine available knowledge pieces not randomly but following certain ideas, semi-definite structures on what words can be further constructed. We proceed by allocating agents in a network and allowing them to cooperate over direct ties either in a regime of collective invention or bilateral R&D alliances. We find networks with skewed degree distribution as most productive under R&D alliances and perfect IPR since they best concentrate scarce resources in discovering different knowledge combinations. In contrast, under collective invention and imperfect IPR, clustered networks better diffuse valuable ideas and knowledge resulting in the overall superior performance. Furthermore, under imperfect IPR, collective invention raises the inequality in payoffs among agents in networks with skewed degree distribution but reduces it for clustered topologies. The latter brings a novel explanation on why industries in the past have experienced a shift in the dominant pattern of knowledge exchange.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-527
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Economic Interaction and Coordination
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Collective invention
  • Discovery
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Knowledge space
  • Networks
  • R&D alliance


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