Scientist Mobility: Essays on Knowledge Production and Innovation

Wolf-Hendrik Uhlbach

Research output: Book/ReportPhD thesis

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The mobility of workers is one of the most important channels through which knowledge is transferred across geographical and organizational boundaries. This mechanism is partic-ularly important in early stages of knowledge production, where knowledge is not yet fully codified and still requires insights of the knowledge producers themselves to apply it to a commercial use. This thesis therefore investigates the effects of the mobility of two types of highly skilled workers on the rate and direction of innovation and research. The first paper investigates the firm level consequences. It asks how hiring foreign R&D workers effects the type of firm level innovation. By differentiating between explorative and exploitative innovation, it finds that hiring foreign R&D workers is strongly associated with exploration, and therefore can shift a firm’s inventive activities towards new technology fields. These effects hold, even after controlling for differences in education between newly hired foreign workers and incumbent workers, and are most pronounced when foreign workers are from countries that are new to the firm. The second paper investigates the individual level consequences of international mobility in the context of academic entrepreneurship. While in this context, international mobility is commonly linked to higher levels of scientific productivity, little remains known about its effects on other aspects of academics’ careers, such as academic entrepreneurship. By differentiating between different types of international mobility, the paper finds that inter-nationally mobile native academics were more likely to start a company, whereas immigrant academics are about 38-47% less likely to start a company in Denmark compared to re-turnees. This difference suggests that there are substantial barriers to foreign academics’ engagement in academic entrepreneurship. The final paper investigates how academic entrepreneurship affects scientific knowledge production. Spanning the boundary between the academic and commercial sector, not only requires academic entrepreneurs to fulfil multiple roles at the same time, but also leads to the accumulation of skills and knowledge, likely to have long-term effects. This paper, therefore focusses on two important outcomes – scientific productivity and collaboration, and investigates the immediate and long term effects of academic entrepreneurship. It finds, that academic entrepreneurship is associated to an immediate drop in scientific productivity, which persists immediately after the entrepreneurial spell, but attenuates in the long run. It further establishes a negative effect on repeated co-authorships, persisting in the long run. It therefore draws attention to potentially negative career effects academic entrepreneurs face when commercializing their research.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
Number of pages187
ISBN (Print)9788775680221
ISBN (Electronic)9788775680238
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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