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Cross-Pollination in Science and Technology: Concept Mobility in the Nanobiotechnology Field

Stine Grodal and Grid Thoma
Annals of Economics and Statistics
No. 115/116, SPECIAL ISSUE ON KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL IN NANOTECHNOLOGY AND OTHER HIGH TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRIES (December 2014), pp. 57-80
Published by: GENES on behalf of ADRES
DOI: 10.15609/annaeconstat2009.115-116.57
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15609/annaeconstat2009.115-116.57
Page Count: 24
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Cross-Pollination in Science and Technology: Concept Mobility in the Nanobiotechnology Field
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Abstract

The emergence of technological fields drives both scientific progress and economic growth. Field emergence necessitates a movement of knowledge between participants within the field, but little is known about the drivers and dynamics of knowledge diffusion within emerging fields. Research has shown that cross-pollination of knowledge plays an important role in innovative processes. However, these studies investigated cross-pollination at the team or individual level or through case-studies of individual technologies, while assuming that cross-pollination occurred between concepts. In this paper we move the unit of analysis to the level of the individual concept, and investigate how the cross-pollination of concepts influences concept mobility. The paper, thus, extends the literature's consideration of the impact of cross-pollination on innovative outcomes to investigating how cross-pollination influences knowledge diffusion. Our setting is the cross-pollination of knowledge between nanotechnology and biotechnology, which yielded the new subfield nanobiotechnology. Drawing on a large dataset of publications, patents and press-releases between 1991 and 2005 we track how around 133,000 concepts move from science to technology and commercialization. We find strong support for the hypothesis that cross-pollination facilitates concept mobility. Scientists who reside in commercial firms generally assist the mobility of concepts, but hinder the mobility of cross-pollinated concepts. Furthermore, if a patent contains cross-pollinated concepts it is more valuable. This paper contributes to our understanding of how cross-pollination influences the mobility of concepts between institutional contexts, and thus it augments our understanding of the commercialization process. JEL: O31, 034 / KEY WORDS: Technology, Science, Commercialization, Cross-Pollination

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