Assistant Professor of Strategy at INSEAD
I study how individuals and firms use new knowledge as a source of competitive advantage. For example, what are the drivers of scientific advances? Under which conditions are firms and individuals able to exploit opportunities emerging from those advances? To find answers to those questions, I take advantage of "natural experiments." For example, I developed a new method that uses simultaneous discoveries in science in order to conduct the first “twin studies” of new knowledge.
My work has been published in leading management journals including Organization Science, Management Science, and the Administrative Science Quarterly. My research has also received a number of awards, including first place in the MIT Sloan Doctoral Research Forum, the MIT Energy Fellowship, the Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship, the J Robert Beyster Fellowship and an NSF SBE Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant.
Before joining INSEAD, I was on the faculty of the London Business School. I completed my PhD at MIT Sloan in the Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management group.
RECENT MEDIA COVERAGE
MADE IN ACADEMIA:
THE EFFECT OF INSTITUTIONAL ORIGIN ON INVENTORS’ ATTENTION TO SCIENCE
Inventors cannot exploit new scientific discoveries if they do not pay attention to them. However, allocating attention to science is difficult because the scientific literature is vast, fast-changing, and often unreliable. Inventors are therefore likely to rely on informational cues when screening new publications. I propose that inventors pay significantly less attention to discoveries “made in academia” than to those “made in industry” because they believe that the work of academic scientists will be less useful to them. I test this proposition by examining inventors’ patent references to the scientific literature in the case of simultaneous discoveries made by at least one team based in academia and another based in industry. I find that inventors are 23% less likely to cite the academic paper than its twin from industry. My results highlight the importance of inventors’ attention as a hitherto underexplored bottleneck shaping the translation of science into new technologies
FROM ACADEMIA TO INDUSTRY: HUBS AS BRIDGES BETWEEN UNIVERSITY SCIENCE AND CORPORATE TECHNOLOGIES
with Matt Marx
Innovative firms rely increasingly on academic science, yet they exploit only a small fraction of all academic discoveries. Which discoveries in academia do firms build upon? We posit that hubs play the role of bridges between academic science and corporate technology. Tracking citations from patents to about 10 million academic articles, we find that hubs facilitate the flow of academic science into corporate inventions in two ways. First, hub-based discoveries in academia are of higher quality and are more applied. Second, firms—in particular young, innovative, and science-oriented ones—pay disproportionate attention to hub-based discoveries. We address concerns regarding unobserved heterogeneity by confirming the role of firms’ attention to hub-based science in a set of 147 simultaneous discoveries. Importantly, hubs not only facilitate localized knowledge flows but also amplify the geographic reach of academic science, attracting the attention of distant firms.
CREATIVITY AT THE KNOWLEDGE FRONTIER: THE IMPACT OF SPECIALIZATION IN FAST-AND SLOW-PACED DOMAINS
with Keyvan Vakili and Florenta Teodoridis
Using the impact of the Soviet Union’s collapse on the performance of theoretical mathematicians as a natural experiment, we attempt to resolve the controversy in prior research on whether specialists or generalists have superior creative performance. While many have highlighted generalists’ advantage due to access to a wider set of knowledge components, others have underlined the benefits that specialists can derive from their deep expertise. We argue that this disagreement might be partly driven by the fact that the pace of change in a knowledge domain shapes the relative return from being a specialist or a generalist. We show that generalist scientists performed best when the pace of change was slower and their ability to draw from diverse knowledge domains was an advantage in the field, but specialists gained advantage when the pace of change increased and their deeper expertise allowed them to use new knowledge created at the knowledge frontier. We discuss and test the roles of cognitive mechanisms and of competition for scarce resources. Specifically, we show that specialists became more desirable collaborators when the pace of change was faster, but when the pace of change was slower, generalists were more sought after as collaborators. Overall, our results highlight trade-offs associated with specialization for creative performance.
WHEN COLLABORATION BRIDGES INSTITUTIONS:
THE IMPACT OF INDUSTRY COLLABORATION ON ACADEMIC PRODUCTIVITY
with Keyvan Vakili and Florenta Teodoridis
Prior research suggests that academic scientists who collaborate with firms may experience lower publication rates in their collaborative lines of work due to industry's insistence on IP protection through patenting or secrecy. The main empirical challenge of examining the effect of industry collaboration on scientific productivity is that research projects that involve industry collaborators may be qualitatively different from those that do not. Hence, any difference in subsequent output of academic scientists who collaborate with industry may be driven by differences in the nature of research projects that attract industry collaborators. To address this issue, we exploit the occurrence of simultaneous discoveries where multiple scientists make roughly the same discovery around the same time. Following a simultaneous discovery, we compare the follow-on research output of academic scientists who collaborated with industry on the discovery with that of academic scientists who did not. We find that academic scientists who collaborated with industry produce more follow-on publications and fewer follow-on patents on their collaborative research lines than their academic peers who did not collaborate with industry. Our results suggest that research lines with both scientific and commercial potential provide an opportunity for a productive division of tasks between academic scientists and their industry counterparts, where the former focus on exploiting the scientific opportunities and the latter focus on the commercial ones. We also show that these effects are particularly salient when the industry partner is an established company rather than a startup.
EXPLORING TRADEOFFS IN THE ORGANIZATION OF SCIENTIFIC WORK: COLLABORATION AND SCIENTIFIC REWARD
with Fiona Murray and Joshua Gans
When do scientists and other innovators organize into collaborative teams, and why do they do so for some projects and not others? At the core of this important organizational choice is, we argue, a tradeoff scientists make between the productive efficiency of collaboration and the credit allocation that arises after the completion of collaborative work. In this paper, we explore this tradeoff by developing a model to structure our understanding of the factors shaping researcher collaborative choices, in particular the implicit allocation of credit among participants in scientific projects. We then use the annual research activity of 661 faculty scientists at MIT over a 30-year period to explore the tradeoff between collaboration and reward at the individual faculty level and to infer critical parameters in the collaborative organization of scientific work.
In 1858, Darwin and Wallace simultaneously published a manuscript describing the process of evolution through natural selection. A few decades later, in 1876, Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray simultaneously disclosed the invention of the telephone to the US patent office. More recently, in 2013, the simultaneous discovery that the CRISPR/Cas9 technology could be implemented in human cells by teams at Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley constituted both a tremendous scientific advance and the beginning of fierce disputes about the ownership of intellectual property over what has been dubbed “the biggest biotech discovery of the century.” Whether in science (Merton 1961), in technology (Hounshell 1975), or in the arts (McIntosh 2018), creative ideas are often not unique.
I am fascinated by this phenomenon and have therefore done quite a bit of work on this topic. If you'd like to know more, check out the slides from the PDW that Ina Ganguli, Stefano Baruffaldi and I co-organized and that took place during the AOM 2019 meetings in Boston. I also have an old working paper on this topic that I am currently updating. Or simply get it in touch!
TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION STRATEGY
Technology change and innovation affect every domain of business, changing the face of industry at an accelerating pace. Yet few leaders accurately understand these patterns, leading to failure that undermines companies, projects, and careers. This 7 double-session course explores the fundamental questions of technology and innovation in order to provide students the foundations to create and capture value in the changing technology environment.