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The evolution of inventor networks in the Silicon Valley and Boston regions

  • Lee Fleming


  • Koen Frenken


While networks are widely thought to enhance regional innovative capability, there exist few longitudinal studies of their formation and evolution over time. Based on an analysis of all patenting inventors in the U.S. from 1975 to 2002, we observe dramatic aggregation of the regional inventor network in Silicon Valley around 1989. Based on network statistics, we argue that the sudden rise of giant networks in Silicon Valley can be understood as a phase transition during which small isolated networks form one giant component. By contrast, such a transition in Boston occurred much later and much less dramatically. We do not find convincing evidence that this marked difference between the two regions is due to regional differences in the propensity to collaborate or the involvement of universities in patenting. Interviews with key network players suggest that contingent labor mobility between established firms in Silicon Valley, in particular resulting from IBM’s policy as a central player in patenting activity, promoted inter-organizational networking, leading to larger inventor networks.

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Paper provided by Utrecht University, Section of Economic Geography in its series Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) with number 0609.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision: Jul 2006
Handle: RePEc:egu:wpaper:0609
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  1. Cowan Robin & Jonard Nicolas, 1999. "Network Structure and the Diffusion of Knowledge," Research Memorandum 026, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  2. Barabási, A.L & Jeong, H & Néda, Z & Ravasz, E & Schubert, A & Vicsek, T, 2002. "Evolution of the social network of scientific collaborations," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 311(3), pages 590-614.
  3. Rosenberg, Nathan, 1990. "Why do firms do basic research (with their own money)?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 165-174, April.
  4. Kenney, Martin & von Burg, Urs, 1999. "Technology, Entrepreneurship and Path Dependence: Industrial Clustering in Silicon Valley and Route 128," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 67-103, March.
  5. Stefano Breschi & Francesco Lissoni, 2003. "Mobility and Social Networks: Localised Knowledge Spillovers Revisited," KITeS Working Papers 142, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Mar 2003.
  6. Jasjit Singh, 2005. "Collaborative Networks as Determinants of Knowledge Diffusion Patterns," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(5), pages 756-770, May.
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