Benefiting colleagues but not the city: Localized effects from the relocation of superstar inventors
Published in: Research Policy, 47(5), June 2018 (pp. 992-1005)
Abstract. In this paper I examine episodes in which superstar inventors relocate to a new city. In particular, in order to assess whether the beneficial effects of physical proximity to a superstar have a restricted network dimension or a wider spatial breadth (spillovers), I estimate changes in patterns of patenting activity following these events for two different groups of inventors: the superstar’s close collaborators, and all the other inventors in a given urban area, for both the locality where the superstar moves to and for the one that is left behind. In the case of collaborators, I restrict the attention to patents realized independently from the superstar. The results from the event study register a large and persistent positive effect on the collaborators in the city of destination, as well as a simultaneous negative trend affecting those still residing in the previous location. In the long run, these effects translate into an increased difference between the two groups of about 0.16 patents per inventor. Conversely, no city-wide spillover effect can be attested, offering little support to place-based policies aimed at inducing a positive influx of top innovators in urban areas.