This article theoretically and empirically analyzes leader corporations’ innovation processes in contemporary capitalism. We highlight three characteristics: their transnational scope, the primacy of power or asymmetric relations exercised by leaders over the participants of their innovation circuits or networks, and the relevance of what we called technological competition and technological cooperation between leaders. Focusing on the latter, our theoretical contribution integrates the concepts of innovation circuit, global innovation network and modularity of knowledge production in order to elaborate a preliminary model for synthesizing leader’s technological competition and collaboration behaviors. This model is the general framework used for studying three big pharma’s innovation networks (Roche, Novartis and Pfizer). In particular, we study those networks by considering two outputs: scientific publications and patents. Network maps are constructed based on institutions’ co-occurrences, thus looking at who is co-authoring their publications and co-owning these corporations’ patents. We find that big pharmaceuticals co-produce together mainly generic knowledge modules, thus develop a strong technological cooperation. Simultaneously, to succeed in their technological competition they outsource stages of their innovation networks to subordinate institutions that, even if they contribute to achieve the innovation, will not be co-owners of the resulting patents, while big pharmaceuticals enjoy associated innovation rents.