Skip to content

CSES creates an environment conducive to research, both in carrying it out and making it financially possible

The Wallenberg Foundations, 2014-2017

The Making of Knowledge-Based Metropolitan Economies

The Wallenberg Foundations awarded a grant to Sonja Opper and Victor Nee to fund a three-year collaborative research project with researchers from Lund University and Cornell University. The high-tech digital economy has firmly established its position as a key driver of economic growth, one where small start-up tech firms are vital drivers of innovation and regional economic development. Open access to technological knowledge and an increasingly educated labor pool—with expertise in data engineering and communication technologies—have dramatically lowered the entry barriers to the high-tech digital economy. As a result, success-factors of tech start-ups have changed over time. Whereas the success of Silicon Valley was based on the technological edge of highly educated and closely connected engineers and computer scientists, new start-up entrepreneurs in this sector today emphasize the more important role of existing industry ties and the tailor-made application of their new technologies. As a consequence, high-tech development depends increasingly on close links with other industries, to develop and exploit novel and innovative applications. For example, EdTech and FinTech companies are currently at the forefront of this development.

The comparative advantage of metropolitan areas relies increasingly on entrepreneurs founding small-scale digital information and high-tech start-ups, providing essential services and tools for a rapidly changing knowledge based economic development. Not only do the IT and digital industries emerge as a new powerful sector, but also contribute to the development of new networks of innovation—which in turn help to revolutionize established industries. The proposed project, therefore, aims to explain the relationship between entrepreneurial activities and the emergence of high-tech clusters in the New York City metropolitan region.

The Templeton Foundation, 2006-2011

The Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Birth of China's Free Enterprise Economy

The John Templeton Foundation awarded a grant to Victor Nee to fund a three-year collaborative research project with researchers from Cornell University, Peking University, Stanford University, and Lund University that aims to provide an understanding of the mechanisms and driving forces behind China’s emerging free enterprise economy. Chinese entrepreneurial success is an anomaly. China lacks many of the conditions economists argue are necessary for private-sector economic growth. Yet private entrepreneurs and firms have emerged as the most dynamic forces in the making of China’s economic development. Clearly, the nature of China’s new private enterprise sector provides an important historical opportunity to understand the genesis of social and economic transformation driven by forces of the human entrepreneurial spirit. Nee’s early analysis of China’s transition to a market economy predicted that, despite barriers to entry and widespread discrimination, private entrepreneurs would eventually emerge as the leading edge of China’s new market economy. This research will follow up on earlier studies of market transition in China to explain how individual entrepreneurs have overcome initial obstacles to build the foundations of a free enterprise economy. The project will be administered by the CSES, the leading research center in the field of economic sociology.

“[T]he challenge is to specify and explicate the social mechanisms determining the relationship between the informal social organization of close-knit groups and the formal rules of institutional structures.”— Victor Nee