As part of our profiles of TIM people, let us introduce Maria Roche of Harvard Business School, which is in Boston, Massachusetts. Maria, you recently won the TIM Best Dissertation Award, congratulations! So…
What are your research interests right now?
My research focuses on the production and diffusion of knowledge, which I examine in various contexts including cities, co-working spaces, universities, and open-source platforms. Currently, I am digging into both contemporary and more historic data. The first set of projects examines the importance of external knowledge for building a technology pipeline that attracts funding. The second set aims to improve our understanding of how temporary co-location and co-working can have long-term consequences for innovation as well as how being connected to a communication grid is critical for promoting establishment growth and innovation.
What do you think is your most exciting contribution to academia?
I think that my diverse background provides me with the ability to take on very different perspectives and to span several research communities. It also helps me find interesting nuggets in what may appear to some as rather unspectacular settings, like street infrastructure and its impact on innovation.
At the 2021 Conference you an award from TIM. Tell us about the paper and why you think its findings are important.
I won the TIM Best Dissertation Award for my PhD work that I completed in 2020. My dissertation consists of three chapters on the topic of interactions and innovation; a topic that couldn’t be more relevant in light of the current pandemic. The reason I focused on interactions, is because of its crucial role for innovation. Interaction between individuals enables the exchange and recombination of knowledge necessary to create new or improve existing technologies, processes, or products. In my dissertation, I examine three different factors (using three different data sets) that influence innovation via their impact on interpersonal exchange: physical structure, social proximity, and temporal overlap. The first chapter analyzes how the physical layout of cities affects innovation by influencing the organization of knowledge exchange. Here, I exploit a novel data set covering all Census Block Groups in the contiguous United States with information on innovation outcomes, street infrastructure, as well as population and workforce characteristics. The core finding: Denser streets boost innovation. In the second chapter (co-authored), I add a social component to my analyses and examine the influence of both close geographic proximity and diversity on technology adoption decisions at one of the largest technology co-working hubs in the United States. The core finding: Being close is especially critical for promoting exchange among different firms. Finally, in the third chapter, I examine the impact of exposure to an entrepreneurial advisor on the innovative output of their PhD students using a unique matched sample of advisors and advisees in the life sciences, computer sciences and engineering at a top US research university. The core finding: Entrepreneurial engagement is associated with a decrease in advisees’ publication output. Overall, my dissertation takes an important step towards understanding how the environments of knowledge producers impact innovation via the extent to which they enable or inhibit interpersonal exchange and influence the types of interactions that occur among individuals.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I received my PhD in Management (Strategy and Innovation) at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology, where I was a recipient of a NSF Science of Science and Innovation Policy Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. Before moving to the US, I earned an MS in Business Administration and a BA in International Cultural and Business Studies at the University of Passau, Germany. As a native of Canada and Germany, I have lived and worked in five countries gathering professional experience in various industries such as venture capital and film (I was a stunt woman at some point in time!).