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Keywords:

  • R&D investments;
  • top management teams;
  • board of directors;
  • upper-echelons theory;
  • resource-based theory;
  • agency theory

Abstract

This paper examines why firms differ in levels of R&D investment intensity by developing and testing a theory of direct and interaction effects of top management team and board outsider composition on R&D intensity. The theory is tested in a longitudinal sample of technology-intensive firms that completed an initial public offering. The results indicate that both top management team composition and board composition have direct and additive effects on R&D investment intensity. Also, monitoring by outsider directors does not constitute a universally effective governance mechanism with regard to a firm's R&D investment strategy. Firms opt for lower levels of R&D investment intensity when their outsider-rich board interacts with a team of managers who have high levels of (1) firm tenure, (2) shared team-specific experience, or (3) functional heterogeneity. When a firm's competitiveness relies on sustained R&D investments, it is important to note these interaction effects and make adjustments to promote a healthy dialogue between managers and the board. Adjustments could be made to the management team composition (e.g., initiating management turnover to reduce firm tenure) or to the bundle of governance mechanisms (e.g., partially substituting board monitoring with other mechanisms). Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.