The Diffusion of a Process Innovation with Gently Declining Production Cost

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This paper develops a model to investigate the diffusion process of a cost-reducing process innovation within an industry. Two factors drive the diffusion process. First, the gradually declining production cost with the innovation makes the adoption of the innovation more profitable, and consequently motivates more firms to adopt it over time. Second, the switching from old technology to new technology requires suitable organizational knowledge, which is costly to acquire. This tends to slow down the diffusion. The interaction between the two factors determines the path and the speed of the diffusion process. The model is able to explain three observations in technology diffusion, including (1) the S-shaped diffusion path; (2) the rejection of an innovation by some firms; and (3) unprofitable technology adoption. A policy implication of the model is that, through subsidizing the transfer of relevant knowledge from adopters to non-adopters, government can facilitate the diffusion of innovations and improve social welfare.