Research on markets for inventions and implications for R&D allocation strategies

Raffaele Conti, Alfonso Gambardella, Elena Novelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Several streams of literature have examined the phenomenon of “markets for inventions”, that is, the trade of elements of knowledge which are “disembodied” from individuals, organizations, and products. The aims of this paper are to bring together the various streams of research in this area and discuss their major assumptions and limitations, in order to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the phenomenon, and identify promising paths for future research. We start our review by identifying the object of market exchange—that is, an invention whose knowledge has been codified and disembodied from individuals, organizations, or artifacts. We then identify those factors that enable firms to trade inventions, distinguishing between institutional-, firm-, and industry-level factors. We close our analysis of the extant literature by discussing the implications of markets for inventions for firm behavior and performance. Against this background, we highlight an important avenue for future research. A neglected implication of the development of invention markets is that firms are confronted with a wide variety of technological paths from which to choose, because the opportunity to acquire technologies on the market offers them a greater variety that can their internal R&D departments. However, the streams of research on markets for inventions and on R&D allocation strategies have been surprisingly disconnected so far. Hence, in the final section, we start to establish and explore the link between these literatures, and to identify a research agenda in this domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-774
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013


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