Search Boundary, Knowledge Recombination, and Technological Breakthroughs
39 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2013
Date Written: August 20, 2013
We examine antecedents of knowledge recombination and technological breakthroughs. Conceptualizing exploration as a combinatory search of prior new-recombination (an original technology component), we juxtapose contrasting effects of the boundary in which firms search for prior new-recombination on the propensities that the resulting invention entails new recombination and becomes a technological breakthrough. We hypothesize that, when the search involves new recombination in prior inventions, the likelihood for the focal invention to generate new recombination is greatest for a boundary spanning search, but that for the focal invention to become a technological breakthrough is greatest for a local search. We find support from the analysis of U.S. nanotechnology patents granted between 1980 and 2006. Our findings highlight the role of a local search in generating technological breakthroughs.
Keywords: local search, boundary spanning search, recombinant knowledge, technological breakthrough, nanotechnology
JEL Classification: O30, O31, O32, O34
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