Seminar  |  10/19/2022 | 03:00 PM  –  04:15 PM

Innovation & Entrepreneurship Seminar: Exploit or Explore? An Empirical Study of Resource Allocation in Scientific Labs

Ran Zhuo (Harvard University)

Online (on invitation, see seminar page).

Allocating innovation resources to their most productive uses is a challenge for innovators because they have incomplete information about which projects will be most productive. I empirically study how a group of large scientific labs traded off the exploitation of existing opportunities versus the exploration of new ones, that is whether they pursued safe projects to maximize short-term productivity or undertook high-variance projects to acquire information and improve long-term productivity. To recover how these labs made the exploitation-exploration tradeoff, I estimate a dynamic model of decision-making, assuming the labs approximated the value of exploration with a simple index. The type of index is well-studied in theory and well-used in practice but has not been applied to estimation of empirical decision models. The index model captures the labs’ decision-making well. Estimates of its free parameters suggest that the labs explored extensively. Counterfactual simulations show that, had the labs not explored, their output quantity would have decreased by 51%, and their citations would have decreased by 57%.

Contact person: Michael Rose