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While prior research has characterized star scientists as extraordinary contributors to their domain and carriers of extensive human and social capital, empirical studies report controversial results on their effect upon colleagues and collaborators. This paper explores the role of academic star scientist as firms’ collaboration partners in basic research. We explore the conditions under which these star-firm collaborations in basic research are most beneficial for the innovative performance of the collaborating firm. We analyse patent and publication data of 60 R&D-intensive European, American and Japanese pharmaceutical firms from 1995 to 2002. Our results indicate that involvement of the star scientist in the firm’s applied research and exclusive access to the star scientist are important boundary conditions in realizing a performance premium of star-firm collaborations. When star-firm collaboration is exclusive but not translational, internal firm star scientists appear to play a bridging role in translating joint basic research into a performance premium. Our findings support the benefit of basic research collaboration with star scientists, but emphasize the key role of collaboration management.

Keywords: university-industry collaborations, innovation, star scientists, pharmaceutical industry

About Relinde Colen

Relinde Colen is a PhD student at the university of Leuven, Belgium, since 2013. She graduated with great honours from the same university as a master in Business Economics in 2011. After working in the private sector for two years, she returned to the university of Leuven to start her academic career. Her supervisors are René Belderbos, Bart Leten and Stijn Kelchtermans. They are also the co-authors of her first paper which she will present today. The paper fits within her research interest in collaboration between industry and academia, and in particular star scientists. Her work is mainly based on publication and patent analyses within the pharmaceutical industry

Relinde Colen

KU Leuven & Research Foundation - Flanders



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