How Knowledge Brokers Emerge and Evolve: The Role of Actors’ Behaviour

Posted: 7 Mar 2014

See all articles by Cristina Boari

Cristina Boari

University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Federico Riboldazzi


Date Written: March 6, 2014


This article investigates how actors positioned in a network can evolve as knowledge brokers, as well as how they act to develop new brokerage roles. Our focus is on actor's behaviour while previous studies concentrate more on the structural and positional determinants of brokerage roles. This research combines brokerage roles with a broker's functions in an exploratory study of a small Italian comics publishing house. Over 20 years, the firm played different brokerage roles involving different actors at national and international levels. We find that if all brokerage roles involve transcoding functions, the ability to overcome transcoding obstacles, through the use of shared imprinting with receiving partners, could be useful for developing any brokerage role. Moreover, heterogeneity in the competences and industry experience of hired members of the management team could support the development of new brokerage roles, with differentiated effects on various brokers’ functions. If a brokerage role involves new actors with no previous allegiance, the status of the broker, signalled through network relations, can have significant impacts by indirectly communicating its superior knowledge. The proposed, emerging theoretical framework has direct implications for studies of knowledge brokers and innovation in social networks, as well as for entrepreneurship research.

Keywords: Innovation; Networks; Knowledge broker; Creative industries

JEL Classification: M13, M19

Suggested Citation

Boari, Cristina and Riboldazzi, Federico, How Knowledge Brokers Emerge and Evolve: The Role of Actors’ Behaviour (March 6, 2014). Research Policy, Vol. 43, No. May, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Cristina Boari (Contact Author)

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Strada Maggiore 45
Bologna, 40125

Federico Riboldazzi

Independent ( email )

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