Crises and the Direction of Innovation

Kevin Bryan, Jorge Lemus, Guillermo Marshall

Research output: Working paper


The value of innovation during crises can be extraordinary. While high payoffs increase the rate of innovation, they also induce a strategic distortion in its direction. High payoffs attract entry by innovators, making the R\&D supply side more competitive. This competition endogenously shifts effort toward less promising but quicker-to-finish inventions. We develop a dynamic structural model quantifying the magnitude of this distortion, even when the value of potential inventions are not observed in the data. As a case study, we estimate entry of vaccines versus therapeutics and novel versus repurposed compounds developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing substantial distortion away from vaccines. Policy remedies include advance purchase commitments based on ex-ante value, targeted research subsidies, or antitrust exemptions for joint research ventures.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages46
StatePublished - Apr 29 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Vaccine


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