It is well understood that innovation drives productivity growth in agriculture. Innovation, however, is a process that involves activities distributed throughout the supply chain. In this dissertation I investigate three topics that are at the core of the distribution and diffusion of innovation: optimal licensing of university-based inventions, new variety adoption among farmers, and consumers’ choice of new products within a social network environment.
University researchers assume an important role in innovation, particularly as a result of the Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed universities to license inventions funded by federal research dollars, to private industry. Aligning the incentives to innovate at the university level with the incentives to adopt downstream, I show that non-exclusive licensing is preferred under both fixed fee and royalty licensing. Finding support for non-exclusive licensing is important as it provides evidence that the concept underlying the Bayh-Dole Act has economic merit, namely that the goals of university-based researchers are consistent with those of society, and taxpayers, in general.
After licensing, new products enter the diffusion process. Using a case study of small holders in Mozambique, I observe substantial geographic clustering of new-variety adoption decisions. Controlling for the other potential factors, I find that information diffusion through space is largely responsible for variation in adoption. As predicted by a social learning model, spatial effects are not based on geographic distance, but rather on neighbor-relationships that follow from information exchange. My findings are consistent with others who find information to be the primary barrier to adoption, and means that adoption can be accelerated by improving information exchange among farmers.
Ultimately, innovation is only useful when adopted by end consumers. Consumers’ choices of new products are determined by many factors such as personal preferences, the attributes of the products, and more importantly, peer recommendations. My experimental data shows that peers are indeed important, but “weak ties” or information from friends-of-friends is more important than close friends. Further, others regarded as experts in the subject matter exert the strongest influence on peer choices.