NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Movement of Star Scientists and Engineers and High-Tech Firm Entry

Lynne G. Zucker, Michael R. Darby

NBER Working Paper No. 12172
Issued in April 2006
NBER Program(s):   PR

This paper analyzes the effects of top nanoscale scientists on industry entry in the comparative context of 5 major areas of science and technology, extending the concept of star scientist to all areas of science and technology. The results for nanotechnology are replicated using the comprehensive list of firms from NanoBank.org that provide an alternative industry entry measure not available for other high-tech fields. We follow careers 1981-2004 for 5,401 stars as identified in ISIHighlyCited.comSM, using their publication history to locate them each year. The number of stars in a U.S. region or in one of the top-25 science and technology countries generally has a consistently significant and quantitatively large positive effect on the probability of firm entry in the same area of science and technology. Other measures of academic knowledge stocks have weaker and less consistent effects. Thus the stars themselves rather than their potentially disembodied discoveries play a key role in the formation or transformation of high-tech industries. We identify separate economic geography effects in poisson regressions for the 179 BEA-defined U.S. regions, but not for the 25 countries analysis. Stars become more concentrated over time, moving from areas with relatively few peers to those with many in their discipline. A counter-flow operating on the U.S. versus the other 24 countries is the tendency of foreign-born American stars to return to their homeland when it develops sufficient strength in their area of science and technology. In contrast high impact articles and university articles and patents all tend to diffuse, becoming more equally distributed over time.

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This paper was revised on June 20, 2014

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12172

Forthcoming, Annals of Economics and Statistics (Annales d’Economie et Statistique), Issue 115/116, in press 2014.

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