Scale, Scope, and Spillovers: the Determinants of Research Productivity
in Drug Discovery

Rebecca Henderson and Iain Cockburn


We examine the relationship between firm size and research productivity in the pharmaceutical industry. Using detailed internal firm data we find that larger research efforts are more productive, not only because they enjoy economies of scale, but also because they realize economies of scope by sustaining diverse portfolios of research projects which capture internal and external knowledge spillovers. In pharmaceuticals, economies of scope in research are important in shaping the boundaries of the firm, and it may be worth tolerating the static efficiency loss attributable to the market power of large firms in exchange for their superior innovative performance.