Knowledge Spillovers through Networks of Scientists

In this paper I directly test the hypothesis that interactions between inventors of different firms drive knowledge spillovers. I construct a network of publicly traded companies in which each link is a function of the relative proportion of two firms’ inventors who have former patent collaborators in both organizations. I use this measure to weigh the impact of R&D performed by each firm on the productivity and innovation outcomes of its network linkages. An empirical concern is that the resulting estimates may reflect unobserved, simultaneous determinants of firm performance, network connections and external R&D. I address this problem with an innovative IV strategy, motivated by a game-theoretic model of firm interaction. I instrument the R&D of one firm’s connections with that of other firms that are sufficiently distant in network space. With the resulting spillover estimates, I calculate that among firms connected to the network the marginal social return of R&D amounts to approximately 112% of the marginal private return.

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