From Local to Global: A Unified Theory of Public Basic Research
University of St. Gallen, SEPS Discussion Paper 2018-16
78 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 17, 2018
We analyze public investment in basic research in a multi-country, multi-industry environment with international trade. In our economy, basic research generates ideas which private firms take up in applied research to develop new varieties. Such development requires industry-specific know-how. A country's current specialization in international trade thus determines which ideas can be commercialized domestically. We demonstrate that the equilibrium is consistent with key patterns observed from the data. We then compare basic research investments of national governments with optimal investments of a global social planner. We show that national investments are inefficient along three dimensions: (1) There is typically too little total investment in basic research. (2) Basic research is too heavily concentrated in industrialized countries. (3) And basic research is potentially insufficiently directed to support innovation in complex, high-tech industries.
Keywords: applied research, basic research, economic growth, international trade, knowledge spillover, optimal policy
JEL Classification: F10, F43, H40, O31, O38
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