Hammer and Silicon: The Soviet Diaspora in the US Innovation Economy: Immigration, Innovation, Institutions, Imprinting, and Identity

Presenter: Sheila Puffer

Research Category: Social Sciences, Business, and Law
Student Type: null
Additional Authors: Daniel McCarthy
PI: Sheila Puffer

Problem Statement: The work focuses on contributions to the United States’ innovation economy of highly educated technical professionals from the Former USSR as discovered by exploring their experiences in both countries, as well as during emigration/immigration.

Motivation for the Research: We saw the enormous potential of emigrants from the Former USSR to contribute in the US as stemming from the educational institutional environment in the Former USSR, and we saw the deterioration of most other institutions as a catalyst to emigrate. Imprinting from both institutional sources would be germane to their resulting identities.

Approach to the research: Using a semi-structured format, we interviewed 157 professionals, half in Silicon Valley and half in Boston-Cambridge, who were entrepreneurs, basic researchers, or involved further down the innovation value chain in commercialization roles. Our work contains their names, organizations, roles, and their detailed reflections on our research questions.

Results: The interviewees’ statements provide significant insights into their entrepreneurial and technical contributions to their organizations and the overall US innovation economy, as well as into their emigration/immigration experiences, and the importance to these of institutions, imprinting, and their resulting identities.

Conclusion: Our study could help shape immigration policy and guide organizations in attracting and retaining talented, technically trained immigrants. Additionally, it adds to the academic literature on the nexus of immigration and innovation.