Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research

Like Stars: How Firms Learn at Scientific Conferences

Baruffaldi, Stefano Horst; Poege, Felix (2022). Like Stars: How Firms Learn at Scientific ConferencesMax Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 20-10.

Scientific conferences are an underexplored channel by which firms learn from science. Although attendance per se may be sufficient to lower search costs in relation to scientific knowledge, we show that active participation and corporate investments in reputation are necessary to establish the personal connections that act as the key learning channel. Using data from conference papers in computer science since the 1990s, we show that corporate investments in participation are both frequent and highly skewed, some firms contributing to a given conference scientifically, some as sponsors, and some doing both. We use direct flights as an instrumental variable for the probability that other scientists participate in the same conference as a firm and find that this increases the firm’s use of the scientists’ knowledge. However, the most significant benefits accrue if the firm seeks the spotlight by both sponsoring the conference and taking part in its scientific discourse. Additional analyses show that these efforts foretell research collaborations and suggest that participation is more relevant in circumstances where the conference helps to trigger personal interactions, even when knowledge search costs are otherwise low.

External Link (DOI)

Forthcoming in: Management Science