Financing knowledge, appropriating value. Two faces of biopharmaceutical innovation

Fabiano, Gianluca (2020) Financing knowledge, appropriating value. Two faces of biopharmaceutical innovation. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This dissertation elaborates on two aspects that characterise the early stages of the innovation process in biotechnology: the financing of basic knowledge and the appropriation of value for commercial purposes. The rise of biotechnology industry and the expanding role of academia in the market arena, have brought important changes to the division of innovative labour between public and private actors. Prior research of knowledge transfer has focused primarily on academic entrepreneurship and a large pressure has been placed on universities to commercialise research discoveries. This dissertation takes a different look at the way the innovation process unfolds, focusing on the scientific founders of European biotechnology companies that originate new drugs and tracing back the scientific pathways that characterise the transformation of ‘R’ into ‘D’. Consisting of three published essays, this doctoral work brings together the literature on knowledge transfer, scientific human capital and scientific entrepreneurship. It starts with a systematic revision of the literature, exploring the mechanisms of knowledge transfer between academia and industry. On the identified transport mechanisms, it frames a new taxonomy which defines ‘channels’ and ‘processes’ of knowledge transfer based on levels of individual involvement. Furthermore, starting from publications, patents and IPO documents by biotech founders, a bibliometric analysis and regression model are developed to identify the scientific origins of biopharmaceutical discoveries and the extents by which these are appropriated for economic use. The essays of this thesis show that the knowledge base upon which biotechnology start-ups are established is created by actors with heterogeneous scientific and career backgrounds across academia and industry. Public institutions back up the creation of valuable inventions by financing most of the basic research conducted by scientists before they start their own biotech start-ups. Furthermore, work experience at university increases the chances that biotech companies appropriate the intellectual property rights of academic inventions. In contrast, spending their careers in the private sector brings scientists to disclose their inventions to their private employers. As a result, these findings contribute to understanding the dynamics behind the private ownership landscape of academic patents in Europe. In conclusion, through an innovative methodology centred on the scientific founders of biotech start-ups, this thesis provides new evidence to understand the critical roles that public and private organisations play at the early stage of the innovation process. This research has the potential to inform the debate on whether and how risks and rewards of investments in innovation can be aligned with contributors to the innovation process.

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