Lu Tang

Patricia Riley, Chair
Janet Fulk, Ian Mitroff

Interorganizational Knowledge Networks: The Case of the Biotechnology Industry

We live in a knowledge society where intellectual capital is the main driving force of social development and wealth creation. The competitiveness of today’s organization lies in its ability to create, transfer, assemble, integrate, protect, and exploit knowledge. This dissertation studies the interorganizational knowledge sharing in the biotech industry.

Despite the fact that interorganizational knowledge sharing is inherently a communication phenomenon, organizational communication literature has paid little attention to understanding the process of interorganizational knowledge sharing as a communicative process. This dissertation aims at further our understanding of interorganizational knowledge sharing in the biotech industry from an organizational communication approach. It develops a theory of knowledge network that explicates the characteristics of interorganizational knowledge sharing on both micro/individual and macro/organizational levels of analysis. Furthermore, it applies the knowledge network theory to interorganizational knowledge sharing in the booming biotech industry, a highly knowledge-intensive industry, by looking at how knowledge is shared and created in the process of academic-industry and industry-industry interactions.

This dissertation consists of two studies. Further, I used an interpretive approach to analyze the knowledge sharing behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions of those engaged in interorganizational knowledge sharing, especially in academic-industry knowledge sharing. Interviews supplemented with ethnographic observation offered insights into how different players in the knowledge sharing process: company executives, company scientists, academic scientists, and technology transfer specialists engage in and make sense of the academic-industry knowledge sharing in the biotech industry. Special attention was paid to understand how professional cultures affect the knowledge sharing attitudes and behaviors.

The second part of the dissertation looked beyond academic-industry knowledge sharing to study interorganizational knowledge sharing in a more general sense. Based on an analysis of existing literature and the findings of the interview study, I developed a theory of knowledge network identified two distinctive types of knowledge networks: interactive knowledge network and transactional knowledge network. Medtrack, an industry database that contains the information on the interorganizational ties in biotechnology sector from 1989 to 2007 was used to examine the proposed theory.