Under what conditions do firms benefit from the research efforts of other organizations?
Although R&D spillovers play a key role in the battle for technological leadership, it is unclear under what conditions firms build on and benefit from the discoveries of others. The study described here empirically examines this issue. The findings indicate that, depending on technological opportunities, firm size and competitive pressure, the net impact of R&D spillovers on productivity can be either positive or negative. Specifically, we find that although spillover effects are positively associated with the technological opportunities that a firm faces, this relationship is reversed when firm size is considered. Whilst external R&D affects large self-reliant firms negatively, its impact on the productivity of smaller firms (who usually introduce incremental innovations that are characterized by a strong reliance on external technologies) is positive, and even higher than that of their own R&D. We also demonstrate that the economic payoff for firms' own R&D is lower when they face intense competition. In cases of low-appropriability, however, spillover effects are more positive, allowing firms to increase their performance using the inventions of others.
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