PhD defence of Kenneth Fernald on Thursday 10 December 2015

On Thursday 10 December 2015 Kenneth Fernald will defend his PhD thesis entitled 'The Waves of Biotechnological Innovation in Medicine: Interfirm Cooperation Effects and a Venture Capital Perspective'. Supervisors are Professor Eric Claassen (VU Amsterdam), Professor Enrico Pennings and Professor Harry Commandeur (both of Erasmus School of Economics). Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Professor Roy Thurik (Erasmus School of Economics), Professor Justin Janssen (RSM) and Professor Han van den Bosch (VU Amsterdam).

Time and location

The PhD defence will take place in the Senate Hall of Erasmus University Rotterdam and will start at 11.30 hrs.

About Kenneth Fernald

Kenneth Dimitri Satya-Graha Fernald was born on May 13th 1987 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and raised in Rotterdam and The Hague. He completed his pre-university education in the direction of Nature & Health in 2005, and obtained his Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in biomedical sciences in 2008 at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In 2010 he obtained his Master of Science (MSc.) degree (Cum Laude) in Management, Policy-Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health & Life Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, after which he started lecturing and laying the foundation for his PhD research at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In 2011, he started to pursue his PhD research under the supervision of Professor Eric Claassen and later also that of Professor Harry Commandeur and Professor Enrico Pennings, at which point the research was further conducted at the Erasmus School of Economics. The studies initially focused on interfirm cooperation with respect to biotechnological innovation in medicine and later on venture capital investments and the perspective of venture capitalists on biotechnological innovation in medicine. While conducting his research, Kenneth had the opportunity to work on several life sciences related consultancy and business development projects.

Abstract of 'The Waves of Biotechnological Innovation in Medicine: Interfirm Cooperation Effects and a Venture Capital Perspective'

Improving medicine and health is the ultimate purpose of biotechnological innovation, where basic science is used to develop new innovative diagnostics and therapeutics to significantly improve the lives of patients worldwide. Concurrently, for three stakeholder groups, the primary goal is to generate profitable business from biotechnological innovation. These stakeholders are ‘entrepreneurial’ biotech companies, venture capitalists and established pharmaceutical firms.

This dissertation evaluates interfirm cooperation and venture capital investments, aiming to better understand how more biotechnological innovation can reach the market and which biotechnologies will revolutionize R&D productivity and global healthcare. The first studies show that alliances between established pharmaceutical firms and biotech companies outperform acquisitions of biotech companies by such firms, as these acquisition negatively affect innovation performance. Furthermore, alliances involve a risk-return trade-off in new product development, for biotech companies as technology suppliers. Moreover, for big pharma, alliances with- and acquisitions of biotech companies are both complementary innovation activities at higher levels of firms’ absorptive capacity. Regarding venture capital, the final studies show that venture capitalists fulfil a crucial role in the biopharmaceutical value chain. By investing in the right technologies and therapeutic areas, venture capitalists build for big pharma as they foresee big pharma’s future innovation demand. Simultaneously, venture capitalists create a technology push as visionary technological gatekeepers.

Finally, the dissertation concludes that big pharma’s dominant logic and blockbuster paradigm have been the root cause of underutilized biotechnological innovation. It further proposes transformation towards a new organizational form for sustainable science-based business and effective exploitation of biotechnological innovation.

More information

Kenneth’s PhD research project is conducted within the Erasmus Doctoral Programme organised by Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), the joint research institute of Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) and Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).

For more information about this ceremony, please contact Ronald de Groot, Communication Officer of the Erasmus School of Economics phone +31 10 408 1762 or by e-mail:

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