So my name is Matt Marx and I am the Bruce F. Failing Senior Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Dyson School within the Johnson College of Business. My research in general is focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, in particular the commercialization of science, barriers to the establishment of new ventures, and employee non-compete agreements and how they influence mobility, productivity, and again: entrepreneurship.
So I have a new paper coming out in the journal Management Science, and what we do in this is we try to kind of revisit the literature on what leads some universities to commercialize their scientific discoveries as startup companies versus not.
There have been probably 200 papers written on this subject, but often researchers have had to make do with small samples or trying to compare one university with another university and comparing different projects, so it's very hard to do in apples-to-apples comparison.
What we did in this paper--along with my co-author David Hsu from the Wharton School--is we looked at simultaneous or duplicate discoveries where two researchers came up with the same scientific discovery at just about the same time--think of CRISPR, for example.
And when we look at these simultaneous discoveries, we find that a lot of the findings that have been published through the years actually don't hold up.
So, for example, several papers suggest that more prominent faculty are more likely to commercialize their discoveries, but that doesn't hold up in our analysis.
Also, you might think that it's very important to have venture capital right next to the university. That's also not a key factor.
And so, what we're able to find is that factors related to the team, especially, does someone on the scientific team have entrepreneurial experience previously? And is the team of scientists itself interdisciplinary?
If so, those discoveries are much more likely to become commercialized as startups.
So another working paper kind of goes back to work I began in my dissertation, looking at the impact of employee non-compete agreements. These are employment contracts that nearly half of the scientific workforce has signed, and it says that if you ever leave your job you won't go join or found a rival business for one to two years after resigning.
Now, prior research has shown that non-compete agreements discourage people from founding businesses. No one's ever asked whether there are demographic differences.
So in this paper I look at whether non-competes more highly discourage women from starting rival businesses and making use of the experience they've developed in their careers.
And sure enough, when they live in states that have stricter non-compete agreement policies, women are about 15 percent less likely to start a new business using the expertise they have from their career to date.
Researchers want to understand the scientific heritage of innovation-- where ideas come from, what was the origin. And it's always been true that if you file a patent, you have to list out the prior art, including scientific articles that you referred to. But there's no standard way to do that, so it's very hard to know which--exactly--scientific articles this patent is referring to.
So what I've done is linked all patents worldwide to scientific articles back to the 1800s, and burned about 500,000 CPU hours in the process. But I've open-sourced this database at relianceonscience.org, so anyone can download it and use it.
We've had about 30,000 downloads so far, which is really exciting, and we're glad to see researchers all over the globe make progress on their own scientific agendas using this data.
Understanding the barriers to founding startup companies is a critical factor, including startups that originate in universities, and so I'm hopeful that my work will spur more university spin-offs, and also many companies are trying to-- they're wondering where they should get ideas, and they tend to look in the same place -- the same universities, maybe in the same geographic area -- and my research suggests that there are many opportunities outside the usual places you would look.
In terms of policy, in fact, the work on non-competes has been used to change the non-compete laws in Massachusetts back in 2018, in Hawaii in 2015, and is now being used for possible national legislation on non-compete agreements.
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Professor Matt Marx offers an overview of his work on removing barriers to entrepreneurship, the effect of employee non-compete clauses on women entrepreneurs, and his passion project,