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

Arora, A., and W. M. Cohen. “Public support for technical advance: The role of firm size.” Industrial and Corporate Change 24, no. 4 (January 1, 2015): 791–802. https://doi.org/10.1093/icc/dtv028. Full Text

Agarwal, R., G. Buenstorf, W. M. Cohen, and F. Malerba. “The legacy of Steven Klepper: Industry evolution, entrepreneurship, and geography.” Industrial and Corporate Change 24, no. 4 (January 1, 2015): 739–53. https://doi.org/10.1093/icc/dtv030. Full Text

Roach, Michael, and Wesley M. Cohen. “Lens or Prism? Patent Citations as a Measure of Knowledge Flows from Public Research.Management Science 59, no. 2 (February 2013): 504–25. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1120.1644. Full Text

Sauermann, H., and W. M. Cohen. “What makes them tick? Employee motives and firm innovation.” Management Science 56, no. 12 (December 1, 2010): 2134–53. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1100.1241. Full Text Open Access Copy

Arora, A., M. Ceccagnoli, and W. M. Cohen. “R&D and the patent premium.” International Journal of Industrial Organization 26, no. 5 (September 1, 2008): 1153–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijindorg.2007.11.004. Full Text

Walsh, J. P., W. M. Cohen, and C. Cho. “Where excludability matters: Material versus intellectual property in academic biomedical research.” Research Policy 36, no. 8 (October 1, 2007): 1184–1203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2007.04.006. Full Text

Walsh, John P., Charlene Cho, and Wesley M. Cohen. “Science and law. View from the bench: patents and material transfers.Science (New York, N.Y.) 309, no. 5743 (September 2005): 2002–3. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1115813. Full Text


Cohen, W. M. “Innovation and Technological Change, Economics of.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition, 160–68, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-097086-8.71047-6. Full Text

Walsh, J. P., C. Cho, and W. M. Cohen. “Patents, material transfers, and access to research inputs in biomedical research.” In Perspectives on Commercializing Innovation, 489–530, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139051262.020. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., F. S. Kieff, and T. A. Paredes. “Patents, Material Transfers and Access to Research Inputs.” In Perspectives on Commercializing Innovation, 489–530. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Cohen, W. M. “Fifty Years of Empirical Studies of Innovative Activity and Performance.” In Handbook of Economics of Innovation, edited by B. H. Hall and N. Rosenberg, 1:129–213. Elsevier, 2010.

Cohen, W. M., and J. P. Walsh. “Access—or not—in Academic Biomedical Research.” In Working within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property, edited by H. F. Dreyfus and D. Zimmerman, 3–28, 2010.

Cohen, W. M., and H. Sauermann. “Schumpeter's prophecy and individual incentives as a driver of innovation.” In Perspectives on Innovation, 73–104, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618390.006. Full Text

Walsh, J. P., A. Arora, and W. M. Cohen. “The effects of research tool patents and licensing on biomedical innovation.” In Knowledge Accumulation and Industry Evolution: The Case of Pharma-Biotech, 277–326, 2006. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511493232.010. Full Text

Cohen, W. M., A. Arora, and M. Ceccagnoli. “Trading Knowledge: An exploration of patent protection and other determinants of market transactions in technology and R&D.” In The Financing of Innovation, edited by N. Lamoreaux and K. Sokoloff. MIT Press, 2006.

Cohen, W. M. “Does Open Source Have Legs?” In Intellectual Property Rights in Frontier Industries, edited by R. Hahn. Brookings Institute Press, 2005.

Cohen, W. M., A. Goto, A. Nagata, R. R. Nelson, and J. P. Walsh. “R&D Information Flows and Patenting in Japan and the United States.” In Intellectual Property Policy, edited by O. Granstrand. Kluwer Press, 2004.


Cohen, Wesley M., and John P. Walsh. “Real Impediments to Academic Biomedical Research.” In Innovation Policy and the Economy, 8:1–30. University of Chicago Press, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1086/ipe.8.25056197. Full Text

Selected Grants

Organizing the Firm for Innovation: A Bridge Between Innovation Strategy and Implementation awarded by National Science Foundation (Co-Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2020

Conferences and Congressional Briefings on the Changing Innovation System awarded by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (Co Investigator). 2015 to 2017

Collaborative Research: How Innovative are Innovations?: Refining survey-based measures of innovation awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2017