Wesley M. Cohen

Wesley M. Cohen

Professor of Economics

Wesley M. Cohen (Ph.D., Economics, Yale University, 1981) is Professor of Economics and Management and the Frederick C. Joerg Distinguished Professor of Business Administration in the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He also holds secondary appointments in Duke’s Department of Economics and School of Law, is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and serves as the Faculty Director of the Fuqua School’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Before coming to Duke in 2002, Professor Cohen taught at Carnegie Mellon University for 20 years, after having spent a year as Postdoctoral Fellow in Industrial Organization at the Harvard Business School.

With a research focus on the economics of technological change and R&D, Professor Cohen has examined the determinants of innovative activity and performance, considering the roles of firm size, market structure, firm learning, knowledge flows, university research and the means that firms use to protect their intellectual property, with a particular focus on patents. Most recently, he has conducted research on the “division of innovative labor,” investigating the ties across firms, and between firms other institutions that influence innovative performance.

He has published widely in scholarly journals, including the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Management Science, the Review of Economics and Statistics, Science, and the Strategic Management Journal, and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Ford Foundation, among others. He served for five years as a Main Editor for Research Policy and served on the National Academies’ Committee on Intellectual Property Rights in the Knowledge-Based Economy, the National Academies' Panel on Research and Development Statistics at the National Science Foundation, and, most recently, the National Academies’ Committee on the Management of University Intellectual Property. He was named to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Innovation 100” in 2008. He has taught courses on the economics of technological change, industrial organization economics, policy analysis, organizational behavior, corporate strategy, entrepreneurship, technology strategy and the management of intellectual capital. He has also consulted on legal issues bearing on intellectual property.


  • Ph.D., Yale University 1981
  • M.A., Yale University 1978
  • M.Phil., Yale University 1978
  • B.A., Yale University 1973

Cohen, W. M., and D. A. Levinthal. “Reply to 'comments on 'fortune favors the prepared firm''.” Management Science 43, no. 10 (January 1, 1997): 1463–68. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.43.10.1463. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., and S. Klepper. “Firm size and the nature of innovation within industries: The case of process and product R&D.” Review of Economics and Statistics 78, no. 2 (January 1, 1996): 232–43. https://doi.org/10.2307/2109925. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., and S. Klepper. “A reprise of size and R and D.” Economic Journal 106, no. 437 (January 1, 1996): 925–51. https://doi.org/10.2307/2235365. Full Text

Cohen, Wesley M., and Daniel A. Levinthal. “Fortune Favors the Prepared Firm.” Management Science 40, no. 2 (February 1994): 227–51. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.40.2.227. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., and S. Klepper. “The tradeoff between firm size and diversity in the pursuit of technological progress.” Small Business Economics 4, no. 1 (March 1, 1992): 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00402211. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., and S. Klepper. “The Anatomy of Industry R&D Intensity Distributions.” American Economic Review 82, no. 4 (1992): 773–99.

Cohen, W. M. “Incomplete markets, intra-industry firm heterogeneity and investment. The case of uranium exploration.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 14, no. 2 (January 1, 1990): 223–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/0167-2681(90)90076-P. Full Text

Cohen, Wesley M., and Daniel Levinthal. “Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective on Learning and Innovation.” Administrative Science Quarterly 35, no. 1 (1990): 128–128.

Cohen, W. M., and R. C. Levin. “Chapter 18 Empirical studies of innovation and market structure.” Handbook of Industrial Organization 2 (December 1, 1989): 1059–1107. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1573-448X(89)02006-6. Full Text

Cohen, Wesley M., and Daniel Levinthal. “Innovation and Learning: The Two Faces of R&D.” Economic Journal 99, no. 397 (1989): 569–569.