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A novel approach to national technological accumulation and absorptive capacity: aggregating Cohen and Levinthal

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  • Paola Criscuolo
  • Rajneesh Narula

Abstract

The paper develops a more precise specification and understanding of the process of national-level knowledge accumulation and absorptive capabilities by applying the reasoning and evidence from the firm-level analysis pioneered by Cohen and Levinthal (1989, 1990). In doing so, we acknowledge that significant cross-border effects due to the role of both inward and outward FDI exist and that assimilation of foreign knowledge is not only confined to catching-up economies but is also carried out by countries at the frontier-sharing phase. We postulate a non-linear relationship between national absorptive capacity and the technological gap, due to the effects of the cumulative nature of the learning process and the increase in complexity of external knowledge as the country approaches the technological frontier. We argue that national absorptive capacity and the accumulation of knowledge stock are simultaneously determined. This implies that different phases of technological development require different strategies. During the catching-up phase, knowledge accumulation occurs predominately through the absorption of trade and/or inward FDI-related R&D spillovers. At the pre-frontier-sharing phase onwards, increases in the knowledge base occur largely through independent knowledge creation and actively accessing foreign-located technological spillovers, inter alia through outward FDI-related R&D, joint ventures and strategic alliances. En s'appuyant sur l'analyse initi�e par Cohen et Levinthal (1989, 1990), cet article am�liore la compr�hension du processus d'accumulation de savoirs au niveau national et des capacit�s d'absorption au niveau des entreprises. Ce faisant nous reconnaissons l'existence d'effets transfrontaliers importants dus au r�le des IDE entrants et sortants et que l'assimilation de savoirs �trangers ne concerne pas les seules �conomies en rattrapage mais est aussi r�alis�e par les pays en phase de partage de fronti�re (frontier-sharing phase). Nous postulons une relation non lin�aire entre la capacit� d'absorption nationale et l'�cart technologique, due � la nature cumulative du processus d'apprentissage et � la complexit� croissante des connaissances externes au fur et � mesure que le pays s'approche de la fronti�re technologique. Nous d�fendons l'id�e que la capacit� d'absorption nationale et l'accumulation de savoirs sont simultan�ment d�termin�es. Cela implique que des phases de d�veloppement technologique diff�rentes n�cessitent des strat�gies diff�rentes. Au cours de la phase de rattrapage, l'accumulation de savoirs s'effectue essentiellement par le commerce et/ou par les retomb�es sur la R&D des IDE entrants. A partir de la phase de pr�partage de fronti�re (pre-frontier-sharing phase), l'am�lioration des connaissances intervient en grande partie au travers de la cr�ation de savoirs ind�pendants et de l'acc�s activement recherch� aux retomb�es technologiques localis�es � l'�tranger, entre autres au travers des retomb�es sur la R&D d'IDE sortants, d'entreprises conjointes et d'alliances strat�giques.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor and Francis Journals in its journal The European Journal of Development Research.

Volume (Year): 20 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 56-73

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Handle: RePEc:taf:eurjdr:v:20:y:2008:i:1:p:56-73

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Related research

Keywords: absorptive capacity; knowledge accumulation; technology gap; foreign direct investment; technological development;

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References

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  1. Lall, Sanjaya, 1992. "Technological capabilities and industrialization," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 165-186, February.
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