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. “Patents and appropriation: Concerns and evidence.” Journal of Technology Transfer 30, no. 1–2 (December 1, 2004): 57–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-004-4358-7. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., R. R. Nelson, and J. P. Walsh. “Links and impacts: The influence of public research on industrial R &D,” December 1, 2003, 109–46. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781781950241.00017. Full Text

Walsh, John P., Wesley M. Cohen, and Ashish Arora. “Science and the law. Working through the patent problem.Science (New York, N.Y.) 299, no. 5609 (February 2003): 1021. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.299.5609.1021. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., A. Goto, A. Nagata, R. R. Nelson, and J. P. Walsh. “RandD spillovers, patents and the incentives to innovate in Japan and the United States.” Research Policy 31, no. 8–9 (January 1, 2002): 1349–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0048-7333(02)00068-9. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., R. R. Nelson, and J. P. Walsh. “Links and impacts: The influence of public research on industrial R&D.” Management Science 48, no. 1 (January 1, 2002): 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., A. Goto, A. Nagata, R. R. Nelson, and J. P. Walsh. “R&D spillovers, patents and the incentives to innovate in Japan and the United States.” Research Policy 31, no. 8–9 (2002): 1349–67.

Cohen, W. “Introduction to the Special Issue in Honor of Richard Nelson.” Industrial and Corporate Change 10, no. 3 (August 1, 2001): 549–59. https://doi.org/10.1093/icc/10.3.549. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., and F. Malerba. “Is the tendency to variation a chief cause of progress?Industrial and Corporate Change 10, no. 3 (January 1, 2001): 587–608. https://doi.org/10.1093/icc/10.3.587. Full Text

Holbrook, D., W. M. Cohen, D. A. Hounshell, and S. Klepper. “The nature, sources, and consequences of firm differences in the early history of the semiconductor industry.” Strategic Management Journal 21, no. 10–11 (January 1, 2000): 1017–41. https://doi.org/10.1002/1097-0266(200010/11)21:10/11<1017::AID-SMJ131>3.0.CO;2-G. Full Text

Sinclair, G., S. Klepper, and W. Cohen. “What's experience got to do with it? Sources of cost reduction in a large specialty chemicals producer.” Management Science 46, no. 1 (January 1, 2000): 28–45. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc. Full Text


Cohen, W. M., and J. P. Walsh. “Public Research, Patents and Implications for Industrial R&D in the Drug, Biotechnology, Semiconductor and Computer Industries.” In Capitalizing on New Needs and New Opportunities: Government-Industry Partnerships in Biotechnology and Information Technologies, edited by C. W. Wessner. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.

Cohen, W. M., and R. Florida. “Engine or Infrastructure: The University Role in Economic Development.” In Industrializing Knowledge, edited by R. Branscomb, R. Kodama, and R. Florida. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Cohen, W. M., R. Florida, L. Randazzese, and J. Walsh. “Industry and the Academy: Uneasy Partners in the Cause of Technological Advance.” In The Future of the Research University, edited by R. Roll. Brookings Institute Press, 1998.

Cohen, W. M. “Empirical Studies of Innovative Activity.” In Handbook of the  Economics of Innovation and Technical Change, edited by P. Stoneman. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1995.

Cohen, W. M., and D. A. Levinthal. “The Implications of Spillovers for R&D Investment and Welfare: A New Perspective.” In The Factors Affecting Technological Change, edited by A. Link and K. Smith, 5:29–45. Greenwich, Conn: JAI Press, 1990.

Cohen, W. M., and R. Levin. “Empirical Studies of Innovation and Market Structure.” In The Handbook of Industrial Organization, edited by R. Schmalensee and R. Willig, 1060–1107. North Holland, 1989.

Cohen, W. M., and D. C. Mowery. “Firm Heterogeneity and R&D: An Agenda for Research.” In Strategic Management of Industrial R&D: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by B. Bozeman, N. Crow, and A. Link, 107–32. Boston, MA: Lexington Books, 1984.

Cohen, W. M. “Economics of Innovation and Technological Change: Empirical Studies.” In International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier, n.d.

Cohen, W. M. “R&D Information Flows, Appropriability and R&D Intensity.” In Papers and Proceedings of the Advanced Technology Program’s International Conferences on the Economic Evaluation of Technological Chang, edited by R. N. Spivack, 22–29. NIST Special Publication 952, n.d.