Sen Chai
Associate Professor, Management Department

Photo de Sen Chai
General Information Research Areas Publications Teaching Other Activities

Post doctoral fellow, Harvard University and National Bureau of Economic Research (USA) 

DBA in Technology and Operations Management, Harvard Business School (USA)

MSc in Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University (USA)

BEng in Electrical Engineering, McGill University (Canada) 


Sen’s research examines the entire developmental course of creative innovations from idea conception to commercialization, with the goal of helping managers and policymakers better support innovation and increase organizations’ chances of creating commercially successful ideas. Her current projects focus on understanding why breakthoughs are missed, the process by which researchers or teams of researchers in firms and universities conceive of commercially successful ideas, and the effect of twitter as well as the role of physical and virtual temporary colocation as vehicles for collaboration. In the context of innovation policy, she is studying innovative performance and productivity effects of academic-industry collaboration grants in Denmark, as well as understanding which managerial and structural factors of these funding schemes make them more effective.

Prior to Harvard, Sen worked in the San Francisco and Seattle offices of Deloitte Consulting LLP as a consultant helping clients optimize their business processes. She received a B.Eng. in Electrical Engineering from McGill University and a M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. She has also passed all three levels of the CFA curriculum.

Sen grew up in Shanghai, Paris, New York City and Montreal, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and French. She enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures during her free time.

Research Areas

Technology and Innovation Management

Innovation Funding and Incentives  

Technology and Global Innovation Strategy


Commercializing Science






Academic Publications
  "Bridging Temporal Divides: Temporal Brokerage in Global Teams and its Impact on Individual Performance" (J. Mell, S. Jang, S. Chai), Organization Science
  "Explaining and Predicting the Impact of Authors within a Community: an Assessment of the Bibliometric Literature and Application of Machine Learning." (S. Chai, A. D'amour, L. Fleming), Industrial and Corporate Change, Feb 2020, Vol. 29, Issue 1, p. 61‑80
  "Temporary Colocation and Collaborative Discovery: Who Confers at Conferences" (S. Chai, R. Freeman), Strategic Management Journal, Dec 2019, Vol. 40, Issue 13, p. 2138‑2164
  "Breakthrough Recognition: Bias Against Novelty and Competition for Attention" (S. Chai, A. Menon), Research Policy, Apr 2019, Vol. 48, p. 733‑747
  "Near Misses in the Breakthrough Discovery Process" (S. Chai), Organization Science, May 2017, Vol. 28, Issue 3, p. 411‑428
  "Why Big Data Isn't Enough" (S. Chai, W. Shih), MIT Sloan Management Review, Dec 2016, Vol. 58, Issue 2
  "Bridging Science and Technology through Academic-Industry Partnerships" (S. Chai, W. Shih), Research Policy, Jan 2016, Vol. 45, p. 148‑158
  "What to Know about Locating in a Cluster" (W. Shih, S. Chai), MIT Sloan Management Review, Oct 2015, Vol. 57, Issue 1

Working papers
  "Bridging Temporal Divides: Temporal Brokerage in Global Teams and its Impact on Individual Performance." (with J. Mell, S. Jang). , May 19.
  "Negotiating the Meaning of Catastrophic Innovation Failure" (with A. Doshi, L. Silvestri). , Sep 18.

Other Publications
Articles published in conference proceedings
  "How Firms Frame Catastrophic Failure", With A. Doshi, L. Silvestri. In : Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management. : Academy of Management, 2017
  "Data-Driven vs. Hypothesis-Driven Research: Making sense of big data", With W. Shih. In : Academy of Management Proceedings, Academy of Management. : 14843, 2016

Other Teaching Activities

Case studies

- with Shih, Willy C.

“Alnylam Pharmaceuticals: Building Value from the IP Estate.” Harvard Business School Case 611-009, and teaching note.
“Lego Group: Publish or Protect?” Harvard Business School Case 613-079, and teaching note.
"Novozymes: Building the Cellulosic Ethanol Value Chain" Harvard Business School Case 614-001.
"PadFone vs. FonePad." Harvard Business School Case 614-023.
"BGI: Data-driven Research." Harvard Business School Case 614-056

- with Shih, Willy C., Kamen Bliznashki, and Courtney Hyland.

"Office of Technology Transfer – Shanghai Institutes for Biological Research" Harvard Business School Case 611-057, and teaching note.

- with Sato L. Vicki, Richard Ballenger, Christine Chi, Alexander Down, and Ross Leimberg.

“BMS-Biocon Research Center: Growing a Joint Research Center in India” Harvard Business School Case 613-072.

Awards and Distinctions

2016 - 2018: Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship - European Commission Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework Programme

2015: ESSEC Business School Research Grant

2014: Nominated, REER Conference Kauffman Foundation Best Student Paper

2014: Q.A. Shaw McKean Jr. Fellowship - Rutgers University

2014: Mack Institute Research Fellowship (with Anoop Menon) - the Wharton School

2014: Economics of Knowledge Contribution and Distribution Research Grant - Sloan Foundation 

2014: Finalist, INFORMS/Technology Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship Section Best Dissertation Competition

2013: Economics of Knowledge Contribution and Distribution Research Grant - Sloan Foundation

2008 -2013: Harvard Business School Wyss Doctoral Fellowship (full tuition & stipend)

2001 - 2005: McGill University McConnell Undergraduate Scholarship (full tuition)

2004: McKinsey & Company Case Competition Award

2004: National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Student Research Award

2003: Canadian Institutes of Health Research Award

2001: Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals Quebec Scholarship

Scientific Activities
Conference Presentations
2015 - LSE Spatial Economics Research Centre Seminar, London, UK
2015 - NIH Science of Team Science Conference, Bethesda, MD
2015 - Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC
2014 - NBER Productivity Lunch Seminar, Cambridge, MA
2014 - HBS Science-Based Business Initiative, Boston, MA
2014 - Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
2014 - INFORMS Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA
2014 - US. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Arlington, VA
2014 - REER and Economics of Knowledge Contribution and Distribution Sloan Workshop, Atlanta, GA
2014 - Tsinghua University SEM, Beijing, China
2013 - REER and Economics of Knowledge Contribution and Distribution Sloan Workshop, Atlanta, GA
2013 - NBER Changing Financing Market for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Half Moon Bay, CA
2013 - The Vienna Conference on Strategy, Org Design and Innovation, Austria
2013 - 8th European Meeting on Applied Evolutionary Economics, Sophia Antipolis, France
2012 - Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston, MA
2012 - UIUC Workshop on Disambiguation, Urbana, IL
2012 - West Coast Research Conference at USC, Los Angeles, CA
2012 - UC Davis Qualitative Methods Workshop, Davis, CA
2012 - Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference, College Park, MD
2011 - LBS Trans-Atlantic Doctoral Conference, London, UK
2011 - Darden Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research Conference, Charlottesville, VA
2011 - 7th European Meeting on Applied Evolutionary Economics, Pisa, Italy
2011 - DIME-DRUID Winter Conference, Aalborg, Denmark
2011 - USPTO-NSF Data Workshop, Washington, DC

Professional Experience

2011                Passed all 3 levels of CFA® curriculum

2006 - 2008     Deloitte Consulting LLP – Consultant              San Francisco, CA & Seattle, WA

            Developed business cases for the optimization of business processes

            Projects: electric utilities company, high-tech company and public sector

Useful Links
Personal Links
Personal website
Tel: +33 (0) 1

ESSEC Business School
Av. Bernard Hirsch
B.P. 50105
95021 Cergy Pontoise Cedex

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