Centuries ago a commons referred to the land where animals belonging to the people in the community could graze. It didn't belong to anybody, but it was shared by all. Extending this notion to industry, we think of the "industrial commons" as the infrastructure that firms operating there draw upon: suppliers, customers, competitors, research institutions, and the human resources and the institutions that develop them. Like the agricultural example, everyone benefits when the commons is healthy, and everyone is hurt when it declines. In this talk I will discuss how American firms, through widespread outsourcing and offshoring, have weakened the industrial commons in many sectors. This is impacting the country's ability to innovate because of the close link between production and design. I'll discuss some examples, and pose questions about the implications for the ability to commercialize some types of products in the U.S.
For information about this lecture please visit this ETA Distinguished Lecture Series website.