Inter-firm inventor mobility and the role of co-inventor networks in producing high-impact innovation.


Inter-firm mobility of inventors is a major source of embodied knowledge transfer and receiving firms enjoy additional benefits from the collaboration networks of mobile inventors. However, there is still limited understanding on how the firm can maximize the impact of incoming inventors and what structure of co-inventor networks is the most beneficial for that. To answer this question, we construct a weighted and time-decayed co-inventor network from all IT-related patents in the harmonized OECD PATSTAT 1977–2010 database and analyze events of inter-firm inventor mobility. We look at the future impact of firm innovation and isolate the effect of mobile inventors’ network characteristics from the characteristics of the collaboration network in the receiving firm. Our results imply that high-impact innovations are produced if the firm hires broker inventors who have diverse networks and thus has the potential to channel a wide pool of knowledge into the firm. We find evidence that cohesive networks within the firm, measured by small world characteristics, exaggerate the effect of incoming brokers and high-impact inventors.