An Institutional Theory Investigation of U.S. R&D Partnership Trends Since the Mid-19th Century



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R&D; Technology development mode; Institutional theory; Informal norms; Formal constraints


Drawing on institutional theory, we examine how institutions have influenced technology development trends in the U.S. since the mid-19th century. Based on an inductive analysis of the history of technology development and corporate R&D, we show that both formal and informal institutional rules and constraints played a role in the initial rise of markets for technology, their decline during the early-20th century, and their eventual return at the end of the 20th century. We also find that formal and informal institutions influenced the widespread adoption of in-house R&D labs during the mid-20th century. Our study integrates insights from both the economics and sociology branches of institutional theory. This perspective is particularly useful to analyze historical phenomenon and shifts in trends across long time periods.

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Research Policy

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J.M. Pattit, S.P. Raj, & D. Wilemon. “An institutional theory investigation of U.S. technology development trends since the mid-19th century,” Research Policy, 41(2): 306-312.