Reaching for the stars: When does basic research collaboration between firms and academic star scientists benefit firm invention performance?

L. Colen, R. Belderbos, S. Kelchtermans*, B. Leten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

While their expertise and scientific excellence make academic star scientists attractive collaboration partners for firms, this study indicates that firms face difficulties in capturing value from collaborations with academic stars. Stars are time constrained, may be less committed to commercialization, and can be a source of undesired knowledge spillovers to other firms. The purpose of this study is to recognize the contingencies under which collaboration with star scientists is positively associated with a firm's ability to produce valuable patents (invention performance). We analyze a panel data set on the collaborations in basic research (publication data) and invention performance (patent output) of 60 prominent pharmaceutical firms. We find that basic research collaboration with academic stars is on average not associated with a performance premium above the overall positive influence of collaborating with academia. We only observe this premium if the star scientist abstains from simultaneous collaboration with other firms (‘dedication’) and extend her collaboration with the firm to involve not only basic but also applied research (‘translation’). Extending prior work that has focused on corporate star scientists, we find that if the collaboration involves an internal firm star scientist, a translational contribution of the academic star is no longer a prerequisite, and may even be detrimental to inventive performance. Our findings inform the literatures on industry-science links and firms’ (scientific) absorptive capacity by revealing the crucial contingencies for firms to benefit from partnering with the best and brightest among academic scientists.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • knowledge transfer
  • star scientists
  • university-industry collaboration
  • RESEARCH-AND-DEVELOPMENT
  • PHARMACEUTICAL-INDUSTRY
  • ABSORPTIVE-CAPACITY
  • INNOVATIVE PERFORMANCE
  • TECHNOLOGICAL NOVELTY
  • UNIVERSITY INVENTIONS
  • EXTERNAL LINKAGES
  • TEAM FAMILIARITY
  • KNOWLEDGE
  • SCIENCE

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