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Department ofEconomics


Managing R&D in Vertical Relationships

Dongsoo Shin and Chifeng Dai

Economic Inquiry 57 (3) pp. 1510-1525


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We study the optimal strategy for research and development (R&D) in a buyer‐supplier relationship. The buyer chooses whether to (1) insource a cost‐reducing R&D to its own research‐subunit or to (2) outsource it to its manufacturing supplier. The buyer cannot observe the R&D effort in either case, but can better observe the R&D result when the R&D is conducted internally. According to our analysis, the buyer prefers insourcing R&D to mitigate information asymmetry when the R&D cost is either small or large. When the R&D cost is intermediate, however, the buyer prefers outsourcing R&D, and can achieve the full information outcome (first‐best outcome) despite the information asymmetry associated with outsourcing R&D. Moreover, the buyer's preference for outsourcing high‐cost R&D increases when the R&D is more likely to succeed or to generate significant cost reductions, or the R&D result is more difficult to predict. Our analysis provides a theoretical explanation for the increasing trend of outsourcing innovation to manufacturing suppliers. (JEL D82, L22, L23)

LSB Research, ECON, 2019, Dongsoo Shin