The mechanisms of collaboration in inventive teams: Composition, social networks, and geography

Janet Bercovitz, Maryann Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates the composition of creative teams of academic scientists engaged in inventive activity. Our data provides a unique opportunity to explore the links between team composition and commercialization outcomes. We find that there are coordination costs associated with reaching across academic departments and organizational boundaries to build teams. However, we also find evidence of benefits due to knowledge diversity, particularly in the cases of truly novel combinations. In support of internal cohesion arguments, we find that performance improves with the experience of the team. In line with arguments regarding the value of diverse external networks, we find that teams that are composed of members from multiple institutions - focal university, other research institution, and/or industry - are more successful in generating patents, licenses, and royalties. Finally, we find that the presence of prior social ties supporting links with external team members positively influences commercial outcomes. We find that there is no benefit to proximity in team configuration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-93
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic scientists
  • Invention teams
  • Team performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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