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Absorptive capacity and R&D tax policy: Are in-house and external contract R&D substitutes or complements?

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  • Todd Watkins
  • Lolita Paff

Abstract

Firms fund research and development (R&D) to generate commercializable innovations and to increase their ability to understand and absorb knowledge from elsewhere. This dual role and opposed incentive structure of internal R&D creates a significant question for both theory and R&D policy: Is internal R&D a complement or substitute for external R&D? We develop a model and novel technique for empirically estimating R&D substitution elasticities. We focus on bio-pharmaceutical and software industries in California and Massachusetts, where tax credit rates changed differently over time for the two types of R&D, creating a natural experiment. The effective tax prices for the two R&D types differ from type to type, firm to firm, state to state, and year to year. This allows us to examine changes in the composition of firms’ R&D budgets between in-house R&D and external basic research when the relative tax prices of each category of research changes. For a sample comprised largely of small and medium-sized firms, we find evidence of a substitute relationship.
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  • Todd Watkins & Lolita Paff, 2009. "Absorptive capacity and R&D tax policy: Are in-house and external contract R&D substitutes or complements?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 207-227, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:sbusec:v:33:y:2009:i:2:p:207-227
    DOI: 10.1007/s11187-007-9094-6
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    Cited by:

    1. Ian Currie, 2011. "Government Policies to Encourage University-Business Research Collaboration in Canada: Lessons from the US, the UK and Australia," CSLS Research Reports 2011-02, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    2. Zhang, Dongyang & Guo, Rui & He, Xiaodan, 2022. "How does the exclusive license stimulate firm’s subsequent innovation? The role of innovation financial input," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 60(C).
    3. SUN, Yu-tao & ZHANG, Chen & WANG, Jin-min, 2022. "How to Benefit from Balancing External Knowledge Acquisition? A Chinese EIT Industry Case," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 178(C).
    4. Chandan Sharma, 2016. "R&D, Technology Transfer And Productivity In The Indian Pharmaceutical Industry," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(01), pages 1-24, January.
    5. Richard Harris & Astrid Krenz & John Moffat, 2021. "The Effects of Absorptive Capacity on Innovation Performance: A Cross‐country Perspective," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(3), pages 589-607, May.
    6. Hagedoorn, John & Wang, Ning, 2010. "Is there complementarity or substitutability between internal and external R&D strategies?," MERIT Working Papers 2010-005, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    7. Marshall S. Jiang & Jie Jiao & Zhouyu Lin & Jun Xia, 2021. "Learning through observation or through acquisition? Innovation performance as an outcome of internal and external knowledge combination," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 35-63, March.
    8. Rammer, Christian & Köhler, Christian & Murmann, Martin & Pesau, Agnes & Schwiebacher, Franz & Kinkel, Steffen & Kirner, Eva & Schubert, Torben & Som, Oliver, 2010. "Innovationen ohne Forschung und Entwicklung: Eine Untersuchung zu Unternehmen, die ohne eigene FuE-Tätigkeit neue Produkte und Prozesse einführen," Studien zum deutschen Innovationssystem 15-2011, Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI) - Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, Berlin.
    9. Zhao, Chuanmin & Qu, Xi & Luo, Shougui, 2019. "Impact of the InnoCom program on corporate innovation performance in China: Evidence from Shanghai," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 103-118.
    10. Sungki Lee & Donghyuk Choi & Yeonbae Kim, 2009. "Contextual Effects on the Complementarities Between R&D Activities: An Empirical Analysis of the Korean Manufacturing Industry," TEMEP Discussion Papers 200917, Seoul National University; Technology Management, Economics, and Policy Program (TEMEP), revised Oct 2009.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    R&D; Absorptive capacity; Tax credit; R&D substitution; Technology policy; O31; O38; L26; L65; L86;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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