Four essays on resource acquisition in the knowledge economy

Sebastian Joseph Hoenen

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Academia and industry are major actors in the knowledge economy. The contributions these actors make to the knowledge economy is largely constrained by resource scarcities. Such resource scarcity is more pronounced for the two actors I focus on in this dissertation, start-ups and academic scientists.

First, mainly due to a lack of revenue streams, high-technology start-ups seek funding to fuel their research activities from outside sources, such as governmental subsidies, venture capital and business. However, the uncertainty surrounding embryonic inventions as well as complex regulatory environments create information asymmetries between these firms and the potential financers that make investment decisions a difficult task. Second, academics source their research funding generally from the public. They do so generally primarily by submitting research proposals to funding agencies. However, fund raising is challenging as knowing where possible funding opportunities exist and being able to submit competitive research proposals requires tacit knowledge that is difficult to get access to.

Because resource acquisition is one of the main drivers for knowledge production for academics and start-ups alike, the aim of this dissertation is to ‘Investigate how resource constrained start-up firms and researchers in the knowledge economy can gain access to resources in order to innovate and advance science’.

In chapters 2 and 3, we propose that having access to knowledgeable colleagues who provide direction and feedback leads to fund acquisition success for academics. We identify knowledgeable colleagues via the National Science Foundation’s rotation program under which the NSF employs academics, called rotators, on loan from their university, to lead peer reviews. Crafting a number of novel longitudinal datasets that compare similar academics in departments with and without a rotator we reveal that having access to a rotator doubles the funding acquisition record of young or otherwise inexperienced academics. Additional quantitative and qualitative evidence implies that the treatment effect occurs via knowledge transfer, as rotators help generate ideas, frame proposals, and explain processes, rather than rent-seeking on the part of the rotator. Overall, the results suggest that strong ties and shared social identity play an important role in organizational knowledge acquisition.

In chapters 4 and 5, we study how young, high-technology firms gain access to venture capital funding. A long stream of research has documented the positive effects that patents bring about to emerging firms in high technology industries. The general consensus is that patents contribute to firm growth because they confer monopolistic market rights, offer protection from competitors, increase the negotiating position of patent holders and other benefits. What has received relatively less attention in the literature is whether patents act as a signal that attracts investors such as venture capital firms. The handful of studies that have addressed that question has not analyzed whether the signaling function of patents 1) decreases after the initial attraction of venture capital, as information asymmetries between investors and target firms reduce, and 2) increases when distance between target firm and venture capital firm is elevated due to increased information asymmetry. First, In line with a reduction of information asymmetries once the initial investment has materialized, patent applications and granted patents have no effect on the growth of venture capital funds raised during the second round of financing. Second, In line with the notion that signals are more valuable to receivers in environments of elevated information asymmetries and under the premise that long-distance transactions present such an environment, we empirically reveal that patent activity and founding team entrepreneurial experience are more effective in increasing venture capital investments when the distance between investors and investees is elevated. These studies contribute to the literature on the factors that drive the value of signals, on the literature that studies the function of patents and other forms of intellectual property as a means to boost firm performance, and on the literature on the geography of venture capital investments.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Omta, S.W.F., Promotor
  • Kolympiris, C., Co-promotor
Award date17 Apr 2018
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463438827
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Four essays on resource acquisition in the knowledge economy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this