Our most recent working paper, The Innovation Commons — Why it Exists, What it Does, Who it Benefits and How, is now up on SSRN here. The paper was recently presented at the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) in Edmonton, Canada.
We propose a new type of commons – an ‘innovation commons’ – that is an emergent institutional solution to ‘the innovation problem’ (defined as a collective action problem, not a market failure problem). In an innovation commons entrepreneurs pool innovation resources (i.e. inputs into the innovation process) under defined access and governance rules. Innovation requires entrepreneurship, which requires information about market opportunities. This information has interesting characteristics that lend itself to becoming a common pool resource: it is dispersed about the economy; difficult to value in its parts; and largely produced through experiment and experience. Moreover, this information resource fits poorly in institutions of markets or states because uncertainty renders them comparatively costly. We show how the innovation commons solves this problem as a temporary institution that forms around a particular new idea at the very beginning of an innovation trajectory where uncertainty is highest.