Does it pay to stand on the shoulders of giants? An analysis of the inventions of star inventors in the biotechnology sector

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Journal Article
Research Policy, 2016, 45 pp. 682 - 698
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Previous research has highlighted the importance of star inventors for invention success and firm performance. However, we have limited knowledge regarding the indirect influence of star inventors on knowledge generation and how the ideas of star inventors influence subsequent invention performance.Therefore, this study uses biotechnology patents to investigate the extent to which star inventors influence the value of subsequent inventions. It explores whether non-star inventors can build, just as successfully, on the ideas of star inventors as star inventors. The results show that having a star directly involved in the generation of an invention, and building upon other star invention/s, is positively related to invention performance. However, stars are not better than non-stars at building upon earlier star inventions, and in fact, stars building upon their own, previous, inventions negatively affects the out-come/s of their future inventions. Furthermore, these results hold true for both general and high-value inventions. Overall, this study highlights the importance of stars in cumulative knowledge generation,but also shows the limits of self-referencing and individual path-dependency.
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