Intellectual capital or signal? The effects of scientists on alliance formation in knowledge-intensive industries

Xiaowei Rose Luo, Kenneth W. Koput, Walter W. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Hiring employees with advanced education, training, and experience has been a prevalent human resource practice in dynamic science-based industries, and a growing body of literature has demonstrated the importance of scientists in such fields. Little research has attempted to distinguish the functional from the symbolic roles of scientists, however. We develop an integrative theoretical framework to separate the productive and legitimating effects of scientists on strategic alliance formation of firms. Results from a longitudinal analysis of more than 300 U.S. biotechnology firms between 1988 and 1999 suggest a positive relationship between ratio of scientists and R&D alliance partners as well as a positive relationship with finance alliance partners. Scientists influence partner attraction more strongly for firms that are less-well-connected, and they become less prominent in fostering finance ties as the industry practice of partnership becomes more institutionalized. We conclude that scientists serve more than just a research function in knowledge-intensive industries. Implications for building interorganizational networks and managing human resources in such industries are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1313-1325
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biotechnology industry
  • Human capital theory
  • Institutional theory
  • Intellectual capital
  • Strategic alliance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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