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The Organization of R&D in American Corporations: The Determinants and Consequences of Decentralization

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  • Ashish Arora
  • Sharon Belenzon
  • Luis A. Rios

Abstract

We study the relationship between decentralization of R&D, innovation and firm performance using a novel dataset on the organizational structure of 1,290 American publicly-listed corporations, 2,615 of their affiliate firms, as well as characteristics of 594,903 patents that they hold. We explore the tension between centralization and decentralization of R&D, which trades off between responsiveness to immediate and local business needs and the type of research that can benefit the firm as a whole. To do this, we develop two novel measures of decentralization. First, using intra-firm patent assignments, we distinguish between patents that are assigned to the inventing unit rather than to corporate headquarters. Second, we exploit the variation between firms which posses a central corporate R&D labs and those that do not. We find that centralized R&D tends be more scientific, broader in scope, and have more technical impact, while being more likely in firms that operate within a narrower range of businesses, in complex technologies, or that are less reliant upon acquisitions. Additionally, we find that firms with a more decentralized structure, on average, invest less in R&D, generate fewer patents per R&D, and exhibit greater sales growth and higher market value. We discuss several theories that can explain these relationships, as well as potential avenues for future research.

Suggested Citation

  • Ashish Arora & Sharon Belenzon & Luis A. Rios, 2011. "The Organization of R&D in American Corporations: The Determinants and Consequences of Decentralization," NBER Working Papers 17013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rebecca Henderson & Iain Cockburn, 1996. "Scale, Scope, and Spillovers: The Determinants of Research Productivity in Drug Discovery," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(1), pages 32-59, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stéphane Lhuillery & Julio Raffo & Intan Hamdan-Livramento, 2016. "Measuring creativity: Learning from innovation measurement," WIPO Economic Research Working Papers 31, World Intellectual Property Organization - Economics and Statistics Division.
    2. Ashish Arora & Andrea Fosfuri & Thomas Rønde, 2013. "Managing Licensing in a Market for Technology," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(5), pages 1092-1106, May.
    3. Thomson, Russell, 2013. "National scientific capacity and R&D offshoring," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 517-528.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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