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Social Networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms

Julia Porter Liebeskind, Amalya Lumerman Oliver, Lynne Zucker and Marilynn Brewer
Organization Science
Vol. 7, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 1996), pp. 428-443
Published by: INFORMS
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2635102
Page Count: 16
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Social Networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms
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Abstract

We examine how two highly successful new biotechnology firms (NBFs) source their most critical input-scientific knowledge. We find that scientists at the two NBFs enter into large numbers of collaborative research efforts with scientists at other organizations, especially universities. Formal market contracts are rarely used to govern these exchanges of scientific knowledge. Our findings suggest that the use of boundary-spanning social networks by the two NBFs increases both their learning and their flexibility in ways that would not be possible within a self-contained hierarchical organization.

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