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Absorptive Capacity and R&D Tax Policy: Are In-house and External Contract R&D Substitutes or Complements?

  • Todd A. Watkins
  • Lolita Paff

    (Department of Economics, National University of Ireland, Galway)

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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Paper provided by National University of Ireland Galway, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 116.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision: 2007
Handle: RePEc:nig:wpaper:0116
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  1. Mansfield, Edwin, 1980. "Basic Research and Productivity Increase in Manufacturing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 863-73, December.
  2. Watkins, Todd A., 1991. "A technological communications costs model of R&D consortia as public policy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 87-107, April.
  3. Humphrey, David Burras & Moroney, John R, 1975. "Substitution among Capital, Labor, and Natural Resource Products in American Manufacturing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(1), pages 57-82, February.
  4. Cockburn, Iain M & Henderson, Rebecca M, 1998. "Absorptive Capacity, Coauthoring Behavior, and the Organization of Research in Drug Discovery," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(2), pages 157-82, June.
  5. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Richard R. Nelson, 1959. "The Simple Economics of Basic Scientific Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67, pages 297.
  7. Veugelers, Reinhilde & Cassiman, Bruno, 1999. "Make and buy in innovation strategies: evidence from Belgian manufacturing firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 63-80, January.
  8. Mowery, David C & Oxley, Joanne E, 1995. "Inward Technology Transfer and Competitiveness: The Role of National Innovation Systems," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 67-93, February.
  9. Salter, Ammon J. & Martin, Ben R., 2001. "The economic benefits of publicly funded basic research: a critical review," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 509-532, March.
  10. Arora, Ashish & Gambardella, Alfonso, 1994. "Evaluating technological information and utilizing it : Scientific knowledge, technological capability, and external linkages in biotechnology," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 91-114, June.
  11. Diewert, W E, 1971. "An Application of the Shephard Duality Theorem: A Generalized Leontief Production Function," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(3), pages 481-507, May-June.
  12. Lolita Paff & Todd A. Watkins, 2009. "What is the After-Tax Price of R&D? An Interstate Comparison," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 30(1), pages 73-101, 03.
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