Research Policy, vol. 22:1-21, 1993 (Third most-cited paper during 1990-1999, as noted in Retrospective Evaluation, Research Policy 28, 1999, pp. 911-919), with James Utterback
Why some firms die while others survive? Survival has long been recognized as a basic goal for a manufacturing firm. At least in the long term, survival should be related to various measures of performance, such as market share and profitability. Advocates of population ecology have argued that life chances of organizations are affected by population density at the time of founding. According to this argument, organizations founded during periods of intense competition will have persistently higher age-specific rates of mortality than those founded during periods with lower numbers of competitors. At least for the case of manufacturing firms, there may be more profound causes than competitive turmoil that explain a firm’s survival chances. These have to do with the evolution of technology in an industry. Population density may only be a reflection of underlying driving forces based on technological change that determine the form and level of competition, the attractiveness of entry, and ultimately the structure of an industry.