Kenneth Koput, Jason Owen-Smith, Walter Powell, Douglas White

Paper #: 03-02-004

We develop and test four alternative logics of attachment - - accumulative advantage, homophily, follow-the-trend, and multiconnectivity - - to account for the development of interorganizational collaboration in the field of biotechnology. The commercial field of the life sciences is typified by wide dispersion in the sources of basic knowledge and rapid development of the underlying science, fostering collaboration among a broad range of institutionally diverse actors. We map the network dynamics of the field over the period 1988-99. Using multiple novel methods, including analysis of network degree distributions, network visualizations, and multiprobability models to estimate dyadic attachments, we demonstrate how a preference for diversity shapes network evolution. Collaborative strategies pursued by early commercial entrants are supplanted by activities influenced more by universities, research institutes, venture capital, and small firms. As organizations increase both the number of activities on which they collaborate and the diversity of organizations with which they are linked, cohesive subnetworks form that are characterized by multiple, independent pathways. These structural components, in turn, condition the choices and opportunities available to members of a field, thereby reinforcing an attachment logic based on connection to partners that are diversely and differently linked. The dual analysis of network and institutional evolution provides an explanation for the decentralized structure of this science-based field.