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Cross-Pollination in Science and Technology: Concept Mobility in the Nanobiotechnology Field


  • Stine Grodal
  • Grid Thoma


The emergence of new technological fields drives both scientific progress and economic growth. The emergence of technological fields necessitates a movement of knowledge between participants within the field, but little is known about the drivers and dynamics of knowledge diffusion within emerging fields. Research has shown that cross-pollination of knowledge plays an important role in innovative processes. However, these studies investigated cross-pollination at the team or individual level or through case-studies of individual technologies, while assuming that cross-pollination occurred between concepts. In this paper we move the unit of analysis to the level of the individual concept, and investigate how the cross-pollination of concepts influences concept mobility. The paper, thus, extends the literature's consideration of the impact of cross-pollination on innovative outcomes to investigating how cross-pollination influences knowledge dynamics. Our setting is the cross-pollination of knowledge between nanotechnology and biotechnology, which yielded the new subfield nanobiotechnology. Drawing on a large dataset of publications, patents and press-releases between 1991 and 2005 we track how around 133,000 concepts move from science to technology and commercialization. We find strong support for the hypothesis that cross-pollination facilitates concept mobility. Scientists who reside in commercial firms generally assist the mobility of concepts, but hinder the mobility of cross-pollinated concepts. Furthermore, if a patent contains cross-pollinated concepts it is more valuable. This paper contributes to our understanding of how cross-pollination influences the mobility of concepts between institutional contexts, and thus augments our understanding of the commercialization process.

Suggested Citation

  • Stine Grodal & Grid Thoma, 2014. "Cross-Pollination in Science and Technology: Concept Mobility in the Nanobiotechnology Field," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 115-116, pages 57-80.
  • Handle: RePEc:adr:anecst:y:2014:i:115-116:p:57-80
    DOI: 10.15609/annaeconstat2009.115-116.57

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