In modern economics, the institutions surrounding the creation and development of new technologies are firms, markets and governments. We propose an alternative theory that locates the institutional origin of new technologies further back in the commons when self-organizing groups of technology enthusiasts develop effective governance rules to pool distributed information resources. The ‘innovation commons’ alleviates uncertainty around a nascent technology by pooling distributed information about uses, costs, problems and opportunities. While innovation commons are mostly temporary, because the resource itself – the information about opportunities – is only temporarily valuable, they are a further addition to the Pantheon of commons, and suggest that the institutions of the commons – and the common pool resource of information about applications of the technology – may be far more important in the study of innovation than previously thought.
Together with Jason Potts this peer reviewed journal article was published in the International Journal of the Commons and can be downloaded here.