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Biography For Martin F. Kenney

Distinguished Professor of Community and Regional Development, at the University of California, Davis

Senior Project Director at the Berkeley Roundtable, on the International Economy


I was raised in San Diego, California.  I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from San Diego State University and my Ph.D. from Cornell University.  Prior to joining the UC Davis faculty as an associate professor, I was an assistant professor at Ohio State University.

I have been the Senior Project Director at the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy for the last two decades and am now a Senior Fellow at the Research Institute for the Finnish Economy. Starting in 2017, I became an Affiliated Professor at the Instituto di Management at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.  I was the Arthur Andersen Distinguished Visitor at the University of Cambridge and have been a visiting scholar at the Copenhagen Business School, Hitotsubashi, Kobe, Stanford, Tokyo Universities, and UC San Diego.

My scholarly interests are in understanding the interplay between technology, academic institutions, finance, and competition in capitalist economies and how these dynamics affect people and places. I began my academic career studying the impacts of the electric motor on the organization of the workplace and industrial location, but my Ph.D. dissertation was on how the commercialization of university-pioneered new biotechnologies affected university-industry relations, gave rise to the venture capital-backed biotechnology startup, and resulted in the reorganization of the drug development pipeline. This culminated in my first book Biotechnology: The University-Industrial Complex (Yale 1986). Upon receiving my Ph.D., I moved to Ohio State University, where I worked on two major projects. The first was exploring how the Japanese auto industry so successfully transplanted their operations from Japan to the United States. This culminated in the co-authored book Beyond Mass Production (Oxford 1993). The second project was motivated by my deep interest in venture capital and its uncanny success in funding new industries that transformed everyday life. This resulted in the co-authored book Breakthrough Illusion (Basic Books 1990). Breakthrough Illusion argued that as Silicon Valley developed new technologies it became separated from the manufacturing industries of the Midwest, which were already experiencing a significant decline. Influenced by my interest in Joseph Schumpeter’s work on how innovation in capitalist economies creates new economic spaces and my appointment at the University of California, Davis, my research shifted to high-technology electronics and information industries and, in particular, Silicon Valley’s role in driving these forward. In pursuing this research, I edited or co-edited the following books: Understanding Silicon Valley (Stanford 2000), Locating Global Advantage (Stanford 2004), Public Universities and Regional Growth (Stanford 2015 translated into Chinese for Tsinghua University Press), and China’s Innovation Challenge (Cambridge 2016 translated into Chinese for Beijing University Press). In addition to these books, I have published approximately 170 scholarly articles.

My current research can be divided into three interconnected streams:

  1.  Studies of the value of universities for technology development and economic growth.
  2. The role of finance and particularly venture capital in the development of capitalist economies and, in particular, Silicon Valley.
  3. The role of information and communication technologies, very often developed in Silicon Valley in transforming the greater economy and, in particular, the impact on work and interfirm competition.

I am a receiving editor at the world’s premier innovation research journal, Research Policy, and edited a Stanford University book series on innovation and technology.  In 2015, I received the University of California Office of the President’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Leadership in Presidential Initiatives. My research has been funded by the NSF, the Kauffman, Sloan, and Matsushita Foundations, among others. My research has also attracted public interest and I am frequently quoted in the national and international press on innovation- and technology-related issues.

View Martin’s CV

Contact Martin


(530) 574-5943

UC Davis Address:
2307 Hart Hall
1 Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616