Winter Research Meeting Programme

We are hosting our annual Winter Research Meeting on Thursday, 21 November 2019, at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The meeting showcases academic research that uses experimental methods to explore the drivers of innovation, entrepreneurship and business productivity, and to inform policies aimed at accelerating growth in these areas.

Please note the programme is subject to change. 

*denotes presenting author 

Thursday 21 November
Keynote: J-PAL Firms Sector's Evidence in Firms

Serene Ho, J-PAL*

David Atkin, MIT

Nicholas Bloom, Stanford

Introduction: Cillian Nolan, J-PAL Europe


The J-PAL Firms sector, chaired by David Atkin (MIT) and Nick Bloom (Stanford) are committed to further expanding the base of policy-relevant evidence in firms in order to inform and improve policies in stimulating productivity growth. Specifically, the sector aims to bring rigorous evidence from randomized evaluations to bear in understanding how to generate firms' growth, and how firms' growth and size affects workers, their families and the broader economy. Recognizing that private sector firm creation and growth are important drivers of economic progress, the sector has conducted an extensive literature review with the aim of generating new ideas and developing new strategies to encourage and foster firm development. Drawing from over 80 studies, this review comprehensively synthesizes the evidence on evaluations of policies and programs designed to improve firm outcomes, focusing particularly on experimental and quasi-experimental studies. More importantly, the review also emphasizes major gaps and policy relevant questions that remain unanswered to date.

Subsidized R&D Collaboration – The Causal Effect of Innovation Vouchers on Innovation Activity and Performance

Jonas Heite, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

Laura Rosendahl Huber, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Marco Kleine, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition*

Discussant: Marc van der Steeg, Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science 


We study the causal effect of subsidized R&D collaboration on innovation performance. In particular, we make use of a randomized controlled trial to analyze the effect of an innovation voucher scheme in the United Kingdom that grants small and medium-sized enterprises financial support of up to 5,000 GBP for engaging the services of experts, e.g., from universities, research institutes or IP advisors, when pursuing an innovation-related project. Our findings provide evidence that the innovation voucher program successfully accelerates the execution of R&D projects with short-term effects on innovation outcomes. We find that being awarded a voucher has a positive short-term impact on product development for firms that collaborated with a university. In addition, we find a positive effect on the number of patent applications for firms indicating to be in need for specialist IP knowledge. In terms of collaboration outcomes, we can show that subsidized university-industry collaborations result in an increase of joint ventures two years after the voucher has been awarded.

Refreshment break
What Motivates Innovative Entrepreneurs? Evidence from Three Field Experiments

Jorge Guzman, Columbia Business School

Jean Joohyun Oh, Columbia Business School*

Ananya Sen, Carnegie Mellon University

Discussant: Kerem Kilic, HEC Paris


Entrepreneurial motivation is central for the process of economic growth.  However, evidence on the motivations of innovative entrepreneurs, and how those motivations differ across fundamental characteristics, remains scant.  We conduct three field experiments with the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge to study how innovative entrepreneurs respond to messages of money and social impact, and how this varies across gender and culture. We find consistent evidence that women and individuals located in more altruistic cultures are more motivated by social impact messages than money, while men and those in less altruistic cultures are more motivated by money than social impact. The estimates are not driven by differences in the type of company, its size, or other observable characteristics, but instead appear to come from differences in the underlying motivations of innovative entrepreneurs themselves.

Identifying and teaching high-growth entrepreneurship: Experimental evidence from entrepreneurship academies for university students in Uganda

Vojtěch Bartoš, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Kristina Czura, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Michael Kaiser, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Timm Opitz, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition*

Brendan Shanks, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Discussant: Patricio Dalton, Tilburg University of Economics and Management 


Businesses in low-income countries tend to be small and typically have little prospects for growth. Our study centers around an entrepreneurship training for university students implemented by StartHub Africa that sets out to foster the creation of high-potential enterprises. The training targets a population understudied in existing research - high skilled youths that could possibly act as job creators. On the one hand, we study selection into participation in the entrepreneurship training, in particular the role of preferences, beliefs, personality traits, and cognitive ability. On the other hand, we assess the short- and medium-term impacts of the entrepreneurship training on business creation, performance, and jobs creation, as well as labor market outcomes. Our identification strategy relies on randomized marketing messages and data collection from representative populations to address the selection question. For the main evaluation of the program, we rely on an oversubscription design and a random assignment of applicants to participate in the entrepreneurship training.

Geographic Preference in New Venture Investment

Nataliya Langburd Wright, Harvard Business School*

Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business School

Rem Koning, Harvard Business School

Discussant: Alexandra van Geen, Dutch Authority of Financial Markets


To what extent do investors favor startups from some geographic markets versus others, what drives these preferences, and what are the performance implications? Literature shows the localization of venture capital investment and entrepreneurship more broadly; however, it is difficult to disaggregate the underlying supply and demand side drivers. In this study, we test the prevalence of demand side drivers – investors’ geographic preferences—using observational data, the mechanisms behind these preferences through experimental data to distinguish geographic market from idea quality, and whether these preferences result in overlooked investment opportunities. Our study provides insight to the selection effects behind agglomeration in entrepreneurship, with implications for both entrepreneurship policy and strategic decision-making on location for startups and portfolio targeting for venture capitalists.

Knowledge Exchange Within Groups and the Formation of Absorptive Capacity Routines (design stage proposal)

Matthew Hughes, Loughborough University

Coen Rigtering, Utrecht University*

Ahmad Al-Essa, Loughborough University

Bora Lancee, Utrecht University

Discussant: Dana Sisak, Erasmus University of Rotterdam


A firms’ ability to acquire and accumulate new knowledge (i.e., a firm’s absorptive capacity) is considered a key ability that enables firms to innovate and remain competitive in today’s knowledge-driven economy. Although previous research has provided detailed insights into the organizational-level processes and capabilities that affect a firms’ ability to acquire and process new knowledge, we still know little about the micro-level mechanisms that contribute to absorptive capacity. When placed in teams, individuals develop unique routines to collaborate and to share information. Some routines may favour information exchange, knowledge accumulation, innovation, and/or problem solving, while others typically inhibit this type of behaviour. We present a design stage proposal for a randomized controlled trail (RCT) during which individuals are placed in teams and need to exchange information in order to solve complex tasks. Our RCT seeks to test i) which patterns quickly stabilize and form micro-level absorptive capacity routines, ii) which routines are more effective in terms of information sharing, and iii) which organizational conditions promote (inhibit) effective individual-level absorptive capacity routines

Refreshment break
Keynote: What does it take to Raise Team Performance? Lessons from Field Experiments in Companies

Robert Dur, Erasmus University in Rotterdam*


How to raise the performance of work teams? Traditional economic analysis has put a lot of emphasis on the role of monetary incentives. Team incentives, however, can also give rise to serious free-riding problems, particularly when teams are big. In the last decade, research has broadened to include the role of recognition and social cohesion within teams. This lecture will discuss a series of recent field experiments in companies that have shed light on these issues and draw some preliminary lessons.

Drinks reception