UCL School of Management

Research project

The social networks of academic inventors


Scientists are affected by the characteristics of their social networks. Closer proximity to the exploitation realm may alter the role of academic inventors within their scientific communities. Our results show that prior to patenting inventors work in social networks of similar structure to those of their colleagues who do not invent. Before patenting inventors are however more peripheral in their networks. Over time, both inventors and non-inventors extend their networks and after patenting inventors have networks with fewer redundancies than non-inventors. After patenting inventors do not isolate or close their networks.


The most productive and accomplished individuals in science are overrepresented within academic inventors. This circumstance has raised questions about whether the exploitation of an invention through patenting can alter their patterns of collaboration within the academic community. The evidence we show points at denying any hypothesis of separation or isolation of academic inventors in the aftermath of patenting. Our work is also unique in its kind because it takes advantage of recent developments in name disambiguation techniques to examine the social networks of 9997 authors of 283,280 scientific articles with reasonable certainty of very limited homonyms bias.

Selected publications

Forti, E., Franzoni, C., & Sobrero, M. (2013). Bridges or isolates? Investigating the social networks of academic inventors. Research Policy, 42 (8), 1378-1388. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2013.05.003 [link]

Link to the publication’s UCL Discovery page

Last updated Wednesday, 29 April 2015


Research groups

Strategy & Entrepreneurship

Research areas

Strategic management

Research topics

Intellectual property management; Interpersonal networks; Knowledge networks; Management of innovation; Management of science; Management of technology; R&D management