The evolution of science-based business: innovating how we innovate

Gary P. Pisano

in Management Innovation

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199695683
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738265 | DOI:
The evolution of science-based business: innovating how we innovate

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Science has long been connected to innovation and to business. As early as the late nineteenth century, chemical companies, realizing the commercial potential of science, created the first industrial research laboratories. During much of the twentieth century, large-scale business enterprises like DuPont, GE, Westinghouse, IBM, Kodak, Xerox (PARC), and AT&T (Bell Laboratories) created in-house labs capable of first-rate basic scientific research. In recent decades, however, the connection between science and business has begun to change in important ways. While the corporate lab declined, new “science-based businesses” in sectors like biotech, nanotech, and energy emerged. Universities also became active players in the commercialization of science. In short, science has become a business. This chapter examines the institutional and organizational challenges created by this convergence of science and business through a Chandlerian lens. It highlights three fundamental challenges of science-based businesses: (a) managing and rewarding long-term risk, (b) integrating across technical disciplines, and (c) learning. Whereas these challenges were once managed inside the boundaries of corporate R&D labs—under the auspices of Chandler’s visible hand—today the invisible hand of markets increasingly governs them. An assessment of this form of governance against the requirements of science-based businesses suggests a gap and a need for organizational innovation.

Keywords: science-based business; technological innovation; organizational innovation

Chapter.  7690 words. 

Subjects: Innovation

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