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Virtuous Circles of Productivity: Star Bioscientists and the Institutional Transformation of Industry

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  • Lynne G. Zucker
  • Michael R. Darby

Abstract

The most productive (`star') bioscientists possessed intellectual human capital of extraordinary scientific and pecuniary value for some 10-15 yrs after Cohen & Boyer's 1973 founding discovery for biotechnology. This extraordinary value was due to the union of still scarce knowledge of the new research techniques and genius to apply these techniques in valuable ways. As in other sciences, star bioscientists were particularly protective of their ideas in the early years of the revolution, tending to collaborate more within their own institution which slowed diffusion to other scientists. Therefore, close, bench-level working ties between stars and firm scientists were needed to accomplish commercialization of the breakthroughs. Where and when the star scientists were actively producing academic publications is a key determinant of where and when commercial firms began to use biotechnology. The extent of collaboration by a firm's scientists with stars is a powerful predictor of its success: for each 9 articles co-authored by an academic star and firm scientists about 3 more products in development, 1 more on the market and 1550 more employees are estimated. Such collaboration with firms, or employment, also results in significantly higher rates of citation to articles written with the firm. The U.S. scientific and economic infrastructure has been quite effective in fostering and commercializing the bioscientific revolution. To provide an indication of international competitiveness, we estimate stars' distribution, commercial involvement and migration across the top 10 countries in bioscience. These results let us inside the black box to see how scientific breakthroughs become economic growth and consider the implications for policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby, 1995. "Virtuous Circles of Productivity: Star Bioscientists and the Institutional Transformation of Industry," NBER Working Papers 5342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5342
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    Cited by:

    1. Meyer, Martin, 2006. "Are patenting scientists the better scholars?: An exploratory comparison of inventor-authors with their non-inventing peers in nano-science and technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 1646-1662, December.
    2. Fini, Riccardo & Lacetera, Nicola & Shane, Scott, 2010. "Inside or outside the IP system? Business creation in academia," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(8), pages 1060-1069, October.
    3. Jonathan Eaton & Eva Gutierrez & Samuel Kortum, 1998. "European technology policy," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 13(27), pages 403-438, October.
    4. Jerry G. Thursby & Marie C. Thursby, 2004. "Are Faculty Critical? Their Role in University-Industry Licensing," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(2), pages 162-178, April.
    5. Baba, Yasunori & Shichijo, Naohiro & Sedita, Silvia Rita, 2009. "How do collaborations with universities affect firms' innovative performance? The role of "Pasteur scientists" in the advanced materials field," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 756-764, June.
    6. Lim, Kwanghui, 2004. "The relationship between research and innovation in the semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries (1981-1997)," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 287-321, March.
    7. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Yusheng Peng, 1998. "Fundamentals or Population Dynamics and the Geographic Distribution of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises, 1976-1989," NBER Working Papers 6414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Schmitt, Nicolas & Soubeyran, Antoine, 2006. "A simple model of brain circulation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 296-309, July.
    9. Xia, Yin & Buccola, Steven T., 2001. "Are Basic Science And Biotechnology Complementary Activities?," 2001 Annual meeting, August 5-8, Chicago, IL 20575, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    10. repec:wsi:ijimxx:v:14:y:2010:i:02:n:s1363919610002611 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Nicola Lacetera, 2009. "Academic entrepreneurship," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(7), pages 443-464.
    12. Dirk Engel & Oliver Heneric, 2006. "Stimuliert der BioRegio-Wettbewerb die Ansiedlung neuer Biotechnologieunternehmen? —Ergebnisse einer ökonometrischen Analyse," Review of Regional Research: Jahrbuch für Regionalwissenschaft, Springer;Gesellschaft für Regionalforschung (GfR), vol. 26(1), pages 75-102, March.
    13. Lacetera, Nicola & Zirulia, Lorenzo, 2012. "Individual preferences, organization, and competition in a model of R&D incentive provision," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 550-570.

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