Innovation is among the most important topics in understanding economic sustained economic growth. Jason Potts argues that the initial stages of innovation require cooperation under uncertainty and draws from insights on the solving of commons problems to shed light on policies and conditions conducive to the creation of new firms and industries.
The problems of innovation commons are overcome, Potts shows, when there are governance institutions that incentivize cooperation, thereby facilitating the pooling of distributed information, knowledge, and other inputs. The entrepreneurial discovery of an economic opportunity is thus an emergent institution resulting from the formation of a cooperative group, under conditions of extreme uncertainty, working toward the mutual purpose of opportunity discovery about a nascent technology or new
idea. Among the problems commons address are those of the identity; cooperation; consent; monitoring; punishment; and independence. A commons is efficient compared to the creation of alternative economic institutions that involve extensive contracting and networks, private property rights and price
signals, or public goods (i.e. firms, markets, and governments). In other words, the origin of innovation is not entrepreneurial action per se, but the creation of a common pool resource from which entrepreneurs can discover opportunities.
Potts' framework draws on the evolutionary theory of cooperation and institutional theory of the commons. It also has important implications for understanding the origin of firms and industries, and for the design of innovation policy. Beginning with a discussion of problems of knowledge and coordination as well as their implications for common pool environments, the book then explores instances of innovation commons and the lifecycle of innovation, including increased institutionalization and
rigidness. Potts also discusses the possible implications of the commons framework for policies to sustain innovation dynamics.