Killing the Golden Goose? The Decline of Science in Corporate R&D
Scientific knowledge is believed to be the wellspring of innovation. Historically, firms have also invested in research to fuel innovation and growth. In this paper, we document a shift away from scientific research by large corporations between 1980 and 2007. We find that publications by company scientists have declined over time in a range of industries. We also find that the value attributable to scientific research has dropped, whereas the value attributable to technical knowledge (as measured by patents) has remained stable. These effects appear to be associated with globalization and narrower firm scope, rather than changes in publication practices or a decline in the usefulness of science as an input into innovation. Large firms appear to value the golden eggs of science (as reflected in patents) but not the golden goose itself (the scientific capabilities). These findings have important implications for both public policy and management.
We thank Nick Bloom, Farasat Bokhari, Wes Cohen, Paul David, Fiona Lettice, Franco Mariuzzo, Anastasiya Shamshur and seminar participants at the Solvay School, ULB, Stanford University, UEA and the CES conference for helpful comments and feedback. We thank Luis Rios for excellent research assistance. Arora and Belenzon acknowledge research support from the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. The customary disclaimers apply. Belenzon acknowledges support from the Center for Economic Performance at LSE for help with data collection. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.