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Small Worlds and Regional Innovation


  • Lee Fleming

    () (Harvard Business School, Morgan Hall 485, Boston, Massachusetts 02163)

  • Charles King

    () (Greylock McKinnon Associates, One Memorial Drive, Suite 1410, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, and Pleiades Consulting Group, Inc., P.O. Box 711, Lincoln, Massachusetts 01773)

  • Adam I. Juda

    () (Google, Inc., 76 Ninth Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, New York 10011)


Small-world networks have attracted much theoretical attention and are widely thought to enhance creativity. Yet empirical studies of their evolution and evidence of their benefits remain scarce. We develop and exploit a novel database on patent coauthorship to investigate the effects of collaboration networks on innovation. Our analysis reveals the existence of regional small-world structures and the emergence and disappearance of giant components in patent collaboration networks. Using statistical models, we test and fail to find evidence that small-world structure (cohesive clusters connected by occasional nonlocal ties) enhances innovative productivity within geographic regions. We do find that both shorter path lengths and larger connected components correlate with increased innovation. We discuss the implications of our findings for future social network research and theory as well as regional innovation policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee Fleming & Charles King & Adam I. Juda, 2007. "Small Worlds and Regional Innovation," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(6), pages 938-954, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:18:y:2007:i:6:p:938-954

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