Interorganizational collaboration and the locus of innovation: Networks of learning in biotechnology

Walter W. Powell, Kenneth W. Koput, Laurel Smith-Doerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5570 Scopus citations


We argue in this paper that when the knowledge base of an industry is both complex and expanding and the sources of expertise are widely dispersed, the locus of innovation will be found in networks of learning, rather than in individual firms. The large-scale reliance on interorganizational collaborations in the biotechnology industry reflects a fundamental and pervasive concern with access to knowledge. We develop a network approach to organizational learning and derive firm-level, longitudinal hypotheses that link research and development alliances, experience with managing interfirm relationships, network position, rates of growth, and portfolios of collaborative activities. We test these hypotheses on a sample of dedicated biotechnology firms in the years 1990-1994. Results from pooled, within-firm, time series analyses support a learning view and have broad implications for future theoretical and empirical research on organizational networks and strategic alliances.•.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-145
Number of pages30
JournalAdministrative science quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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