Innovation and Incentives: Evidence from Corporate R&D

Josh Lerner, Julie Wulf

NBER Working Paper No. 11944
Issued in January 2006
NBER Program(s):Corporate Finance, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Beginning in the late 1980s, American corporations began increasingly linking the compensation of central research personnel to the economic objectives of the corporation. This paper examines the impact of the shifting compensation of the heads of corporate research and development. Among firms with centralized R&D organizations, a clear relationship emerges: more long-term incentives (e.g. stock options and restricted stock) are associated with more heavily cited patents. These incentives also appear to be somewhat associated with more patent filings and patents of greater generality. We address endogeniety concerns in a variety of ways, including examining the impact of compensation for other key managers and utilizing an instrument based on spawning activity in the region. While we cannot determine whether the effect is due to better project selection or better people selection, the results continue to be consistent with our interpretation that performance pay of corporate R&D heads is associated with more innovative firms.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11944

Published: Lerner, Josh and Julie Wulf. "Innovation and Incentives: Evidence from Corporate R&D." Review of Economics and Statistics 89 (2007): 634-644. citation courtesy of

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