Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation,
Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies

No 161: Persistence of Profits and the Systematic Search for Knowledge - R&D and profits above the norm

Daniel Wiberg ()
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Daniel Wiberg: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, Postal: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Economic theory tells us that abnormal industry and firm profits will not persist for any length of time. Any industry or firm making profits in excess of the normal rate of return will attract entrants and this competitive process will erode profits. A substantial amount of research however, has found evidence of persistent profits above the norm. Barriers to entry and exit are often put forward as explanation to this anomaly. In the absence of, or with low barriers to entry and exit, this reasoning provides little help in explaining why these above-norm profits arise and persist. In this paper the association between profits and the systematic search for knowledge is investigated. The results show that by investing in research and development firms may succeed in creating products or services that are preferred by the market and/or find a more cost efficient method of production. Corporations that systematically invest in research and development are, by doing so, offsetting the erosion of profits and thereby have profits which persistently diverge from the competitive return. It is argued that even in the absence of significant barriers to entry and exit profits may persist. This can be accredited to a systematic search for knowledge through research and development.

Keywords: Persistence of profits; research and development; industrial organization

JEL-codes: L00; L22; L25; O32

17 pages, January 15, 2009

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