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Social Networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms

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  • Julia Porter Liebeskind
  • Amalya Lumerman Oliver
  • Lynne G. Zucker
  • Marilynn B. Brewer

Abstract

We examine how two highly successful new biotechnology firms (NBFs) source their most critical input -- scientific knowledge. We find that scientists at the two NBFs enter into large numbers of collaborative research efforts with scientists at other organizations, especially universities. Formal market contracts are rarely used to govern these exchanges of scientific knowledge. Our findings suggest that the use of boundary-spanning social networks by the two NBFs increases both their learning and their flexibility in ways that would not be possible within a self-contained hierarchical organization.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5320.

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Date of creation: Oct 1995
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Publication status: published as Starbuck, William H. and Suzanne G. Tilleman. (eds.) Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management. Volume 3. Learning by Populations of Organizations, Elgar Reference Collection. International Library of Critical Writings on Business and Management, vol. 9. Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, Mass.: Elgar, 2008.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5320

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  1. Zucker, Lynne G. & Brewer, Marilynn B. & Darby, Michael R. & Peng, Yusheng, 1994. "Collaboration Structure and Information Dilemmas in Biotechnology: Organizational Boundaries as Trust Production," Institute for Social Science Research, Working Paper Series, Institute for Social Science Research, UCLA qt0gd8j9k8, Institute for Social Science Research, UCLA.
  2. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1987. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial Research and Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 18(3), pages 783-832.
  3. Arora, Ashish & Gambardella, Alfonso, 1990. "Complementarity and External Linkages: The Strategies of the Large Firms in Biotechnology," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(4), pages 361-79, June.
  4. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  5. Geertz, Clifford, 1978. "The Bazaar Economy: Information and Search in Peasant Marketing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 28-32, May.
  6. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Jeff Armstrong, 1994. "Intellectual Capital and the Firm: The Technology of Geographically Localized Knowledge Spillovers," NBER Working Papers 4946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  8. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Masten, Scott E, 1988. "A Legal Basis for the Firm," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 181-98, Spring.
  10. Von Hippel, Eric, 1982. "Appropriability of innovation benefit as a predictor of the source of innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 95-115, April.
  11. Steve A. Lippman & Kevin F. McCardle, 1987. "Dropout Behavior in R&D Races with Learning," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 287-295, Summer.
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