My ongoing research is focused on the question how individuals can best build and mobilize their networks to achieve innovative success. Effective networking for innovation may often require individuals to build connections to people outside the usual groups of trusted friends and like-minded individuals they may be most naturally inclined to connect to. My research aims to inform how individuals go about building the connections they need and assess how different approach to building and mobilizing these connections help individuals to innovate.
I currently study the relation between networks and innovation in a range of different contexts:
- Networks of R&D scientists and managers in large corporations.
- Networks of entrepreneurs in geographical clusters.
This research builds forth on my past studies of venture capital syndication networks (Administrative Science Quarterly 2016; Small Business Economics 2012), the role of individuals in corporations’ approaches to open innovation (California Management Review 2014; Journal of Product Innovation Management 2015), individuals’ engagement in “underground” innovation projects (Organization Science 2014) and inter-firm and inventor networks in geographical clusters (Regional Studies 2013; Journal of Economic Geography 2014).
For a full overview of my publications click here.
Descriptions of ongoing projects can be found below.
Networking for Innovation: How Entrepreneurs’ Network Behaviour Helps Clusters to Innovate
Funded by the European Research Council
“Networking is just a letter away from not working”, a phrase that perhaps reflects the pervasive negative sentiment associated with deliberate attempts to build, maintain or leverage one’s professional network. Despite this negative connotation, individuals continuously engage in behaviours – be they deliberate and strategic, or ad-hoc and spontaneous – that change their social network and the valuable resource it represents. Entrepreneurs in particular actively shape their professional networks to access key knowledge inputs, capital and other resources. Entrepreneurs striving to achieve innovative outcomes are typically well aware of the crucial need for social network resources, i.e. social capital, as an input for their efforts to generate new ideas and gain support for their realization.
My research programme aims to investigate the network-innovation relationship in economic geography from a network behavioural perspective. The main objective of my research is to generate insights into how network behaviours of entrepreneurs in geographical clusters enable them to achieve innovative outcomes and consequently help the clusters where they are located to thrive as hubs of innovation. In this approach, I depart from extant research on networks in economic geography and innovation studies that (a) relates individual ability to benefit from social capital mostly to network structure whilst disregarding individual decisions when to mobilize certain connections and (b) portrays network formation as a process guided by environmental and structural constraints whilst disregarding individual agency in terms of active network behaviour geared at building and maintaining ties.
My research programme foresees a large-scale and intensive data collection effort of network structural data, network behavioural data, and innovation achievement data at multiple points in time using a range of novel data collection methods. More specifically, I will use interviews, multi-wave surveys, online networking monitoring tools, social science experiments and use of data from Twitter to identify and measure network behaviours.
The Division of Network Ties and Innovation
In collaboration with Paola Criscuolo, Bill McEvily and Ammon Salter
Research on second-order social capital has established that individuals may not only benefit from their own social capital, but they may also benefit from the network ties of those with whom they work closely. Yet, it is unclear whether individuals benefit more if their co-workers’ networks duplicate ties to the same groups in the organisation, or if they offer ties to parties they are unconnected with.
Using the concept of network role equivalence – the extent to which two individuals are tied to the same role sets inside an organisation – our research builds and tests a theory of the division of network ties that advances our understanding of the circumstances under which individuals benefit from equivalent versus non-equivalent second-order social capital. We examine this research question using a mixed-method approach to exploit a unique setting of manager and technologist R&D professionals who are partnered-up in their pursuit of innovation.
In particular, we test how managers’ (technologists’) innovation performance depends on their own network resources, their technology (manager) partners’ network resources and the degree of role equivalence between them.
Network Mobilisation in Pursuit of Innovation Legitimacy
In collaboration with Paola Criscuolo and Ammon Salter
Ideas from breakthrough innovation conceived by technology R&D professionals rely strongly on the support of other stakeholders in the organisation for implementation. Without endorsement from key decision-makers and opinion leaders, such ideas are likely to be stranded in early development.
This project investigates how technology R&D professionals differ in how they mobilise networks within the organisation in pursuit of legitimacy for their ideas, and whether such differences influence the likelihood of innovation success. Some individuals may start to build a support structure around their ideas soon after inception, whereas others may shield ideas from decision-makers or opinion leaders until ideas have matured. Our research will shed light on the circumstances under which certain mobilisation strategies may more effectively achieve innovative outcomes.
Bridging the Gap: Network Mobilization of University-Industry Boundary-Spanners
In collaboration with Valentina Tartari
Academia and industry differ in terms of behavioral norms and values, work objectives, expectations and time horizons. Such differences raise critical challenges for academics with a foothold in both worlds. In fact, individuals who span boundaries across two different domains may differ in the extent to which they self-identify with these domains. Using field experimental data of academic research fellows sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company to work in university laboratories, this paper analyzes how individuals with dedicated boundary-spanning roles between industry and academia draw on their network resources to perform their jobs. In particular, we study how individuals choose who they rely on for advice in different situations, and how identity and personality factors may influence those choices.