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Corporate Venture Capital as a Real Option in the Markets for Technology


  • Marco Ceccagnoli
  • Matthew J. Higgins
  • Hyunsung D. Kang


Despite the fact that one of the main goals of corporate venture capital (CVC) investments in high-tech industries is to gain a window on future technologies, the relationship between CVC investments and strategies used to acquire technologies in the markets, such as licensing, has not been adequately explored. To address this gap, we build on the real option literature suggesting that CVC investments can be used as real options in the markets for technology. Accordingly, we formulate hypotheses about key drivers of the option value of CVC investments and the decision to exercise the option. Using a longitudinal dataset based on 604 dyads formed by a sample of global pharmaceutical firms and their external technology partners, we find that corporate investors’ scientific capabilities, technological domains, research pipelines, and the resolution of exogenous uncertainty related to partner firms’ technologies impact investors’ decisions on CVC investments and ex post technology acquisition. In our research setting, the most common way to exercise the option post-CVC investment is via technology licensing.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco Ceccagnoli & Matthew J. Higgins & Hyunsung D. Kang, 2015. "Corporate Venture Capital as a Real Option in the Markets for Technology," NBER Working Papers 21424, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21424
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. van de Vrande, Vareska & Vanhaverbeke, Wim & Duysters, Geert, 2009. "External technology sourcing: The effect of uncertainty on governance mode choice," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 62-80, January.
    2. Goldman, Eitan & Qian, Jun, 2005. "Optimal toeholds in takeover contests," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 321-346, August.
    3. Paul Gompers & Josh Lerner, 2006. "The Venture Capital Cycle, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262572389, January.
    4. Dushnitsky, Gary & Lenox, Michael J., 2005. "When do incumbents learn from entrepreneurial ventures?: Corporate venture capital and investing firm innovation rates," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 615-639, June.
    5. Benson, David & Ziedonis, Rosemarie H., 2010. "Corporate venture capital and the returns to acquiring portfolio companies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(3), pages 478-499, December.
    6. Bruce Kogut, 1991. "Joint Ventures and the Option to Expand and Acquire," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 37(1), pages 19-33, January.
    7. John Hagedoorn, 2002. "External Sources of Innovative Capabilities: The Preferences for Strategic Alliances or Mergers and Acquisitions," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(2), pages 167-188, March.
    8. Basu, Sandip & Phelps, Corey & Kotha, Suresh, 2011. "Towards understanding who makes corporate venture capital investments and why," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 153-171, March.
    9. Higgins, Matthew J. & Rodriguez, Daniel, 2006. "The outsourcing of R&D through acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 351-383, May.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • L24 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Contracting Out; Joint Ventures
    • L65 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Chemicals; Rubber; Drugs; Biotechnology; Plastics
    • 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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