Cross Pollination in Science and Technology: The Emergence of the Nanobio Subfield

Annales d'Economie and Statistique, Forthcoming

33 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2010  

Stine Grodal

Boston University - Department of Strategy & Policy

Grid Thoma

University of Camerino

Date Written: January 24, 2009


The emergence of new research based organizational fields drives both scientific progress and economic growth. The emergence of fields necessitates a movement of knowledge between participants within the field, but little is known about the drivers and dynamics of knowledge diffusion within emerging fields. Research has shown that cross-pollination of knowledge plays an important role in innovative processes. However, these studies investigated cross-pollination at the team or individual level or through case-studies of individual technologies while assuming that cross-pollination occurred between concepts. In this paper we move the unit of analysis to the level of the individual concept, and investigate how the cross-pollination of concepts influences concept mobility. The paper, thus, extends the literature’s consideration of the impact of cross-pollination on innovative outcomes to investigating how cross-pollination influences knowledge dynamics. Our setting is the cross-pollination of knowledge between nanotechnology and biotechnology, which yielded the new subfield nanobiotechnology. Drawing on a large dataset of publications, patents and press-releases between 1991 and 2005 we track how 133,128 concepts move from science to technology and commercialization. We find strong support for the hypothesis that cross-pollination facilitates concept mobility. Scientists who reside in commercial firms generally assist the mobility of concepts, but hinder the mobility of cross-pollinated concepts. Furthermore, if a patent contains cross-pollinated concepts it is more valuable. This paper contributes to our understanding of how cross-pollination influences the mobility of concepts between institutional contexts, and thus augments our understanding of the commercialization process.

Keywords: Technology, Science, Commercialization, Cross-Pollination

Suggested Citation

Grodal, Stine and Thoma, Grid, Cross Pollination in Science and Technology: The Emergence of the Nanobio Subfield (January 24, 2009). Annales d'Economie and Statistique, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Stine Grodal

Boston University - Department of Strategy & Policy ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Grid Thoma (Contact Author)

University of Camerino ( email )

School of Sciences and Technology
via del Bastione 3
Camerino, Macerata 62032

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