Filling the Gap: The Consequences of Collaborator Loss in Corporate R&D



We examine how collaborator loss affects knowledge workers in corporate R&D. We argue that such a loss affects the remaining collaborators not only through a reduction in their team-specific capital (as argued in previous literature), but also through measures taken by the employer to fill the gap left by the lost collaborator to ensure the continuation of R&D projects. These measures can lead to benefits, such as additional resources, more attractive working conditions, or promotions and can partially compensate for the negative effect of reduced team-specific capital on productivity. Additionally, these measures can influence the career trajectories of the remaining collaborators. We empirically investigate the consequences of collaborator loss by exploiting 845 unexpected deaths of active inventors. We find that inventor death has a moderate negative effect on the productivity of the remaining collaborators. This negative effect disappears when we focus on the remaining collaborators who work for the same employer as the deceased inventor. Moreover, this group is more likely to be promoted and less likely to leave their current employer.