1/2 - Exploitation vs. Exploration - Which companies exploit existing R&D assets and which explore new technologies?

Key Info

Basic Information

Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftswissenschaften für Ingenieure und Naturwissenschaftler



Innovation is a key driver for companies' long term success. Sure, all companies can be called innovative in some form. However, they differentiate significantly in their ways to pursue innovation. While some firms invest heavily in research und explore new areas of technology (e.g. Google), others invest in deepening their knowledge in a specific area and become experts (e.g. Samsung).


The aim of the master thesis is to understand what distinguishes the two groups of innovators above and determine which type is more successful. For that purpose, students will collect data on large firms' innovation strategy, visible in their patent portfolio. Criteria will be defined to classify the collected patent data: Is the patent a radical innovation or just an incremental add-on? The main source will be Google Patents that provides public access to such information, and has become a dominant source in innovation research. Measures for success can be chosen by the student.

Excel/STATA skills or the willingness to learn is expected (intro material is available), as well as the ability for independent data research is a must.


Since this topic qualifies as an empirical Master thesis, there will be less emphasis on synthesizing the existing literature and more on a sound analysis. Nonetheless, students will have to provide theory-based hypotheses and use the collected data to test them. A clear set of expectations will be discussed with the student at the very beginning, and hands-on methodological support throughout the thesis is guaranteed. Starting literature is also available.

The thesis can be written in German, however, we recommend writing in Englisch since 95% of the literature is in English.

“Tandem” Working Mode:

Note, that this thesis is the first part of a 2-part Master thesis tandem. Another student will collect a similar data set, answering different questions. The advantage for the students will be that, additional to their supervisor, they will have a buddy that works on a similar topic – allowing knowledge exchange and joint screening of the literature.

We look forward to your application via email at
- Short introduction of yourself and why the topic interest you
- Attach your CV, including your grades

Please also see the second part of the Master thesis tandem. Please express your preferences when you apply: are you interested in either topics or just one of them?

Keywords: Innovation, Innovation Strategy, Exploitation vs. Exploration