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Inventor bricolage and firm technology research and development

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We examine the conditions around firm use of ‘inventor bricolage,’ or the reconstruction of technological capabilities through reallocation of extant individual inventors to address new opportunities embodied in patents. Empirically, we examine the dynamics of both firm and individual patenting activity in publicly traded Life Science Diagnostic firms to explore how inventor bricolage is related to firms' existing research and development (R&D) capabilities and firms' acquisition of external capabilities through merger and acquisition (M&A) activities. Evidence at the firm level suggests that breadth of inventors' human capital and collaboration with co-researchers with relevant experience is positively related to inventor bricolage. At the inventor level, the fewer patents an inventor has, the broader the individual's prior patent portfolio, and the more co-researchers with relevant experience, the more likely inventors will patent in a new area. M&A does not appear to have an impact on the utilization of existing human capital. Our findings suggest that R&D managers should assign inventors with less assimilative capacity and more creative capacity in teams where there is relevant experience in order to promote inventor bricolage.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: International Business School, Brandeis University, 210 Sachar Hall, 415 South St., Waltham, MA 02454., Email: 2: Department of Management and Human Resources, Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University, 700 Fisher Hall, 2100 Neil Ave., Columbus, OH 43210., Email:

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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