Not Invented Here? Innovation in Company Towns
40 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2009 Last revised: 29 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 2009
We examine variation in the concentration of inventive activity across 72 of North America's most highly innovative locations. In 12 of these areas, innovation is particularly concentrated in a single, large firm; we refer to such locations as "company towns.'' We find that inventors employed by large firms in these locations tend to draw disproportionately from their firm's own prior inventions (as measured by citations to their own prior patents) relative to what would be expected given the underlying distribution of innovative activity across all inventing firms in a particular technology field. Furthermore, we find such inventors are more likely to build upon the same prior inventions year after year. However, smaller firms in company towns do not exhibit this myopic behavior; they draw upon prior inventions as broadly as their small-firm counterparts in more diverse locations. In addition, we find that inventions by large firms in company towns have less impact than those produced elsewhere, although the difference is modest, and that the impact is disproportionately appropriated by the inventing firms themselves. Finally, the geographic scope of impact realized by company town inventions is narrower, whether produced by large or small firms.
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