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Frontier Firms, Technology Diffusion and Public Policy: Micro Evidence from OECD Countries


  • Dan Andrews


  • Chiara Criscuolo
  • Peter N. Gal



This paper analyses the characteristics of firms that operate at the global productivity frontier and their relationship with other firms in the economy, focusing on the diffusion of global productivity gains and the policies that faciliate it. Firms at the global productivity frontier – defined as the most productive firms in each two-digit industry across 23 countries – are typically larger, more profitable, younger and more likely to patent and be part of a multinational group than other firms. Despite the slowdown in aggregate productivity, productivity growth at the global frontier remained robust over the 2000s. At the same time, the rising productivity gap between the global frontier and other firms raises key questions about why seemingly non-rival technologies do not diffuse to all firms. The analysis reveals a highly uneven process of technological diffusion, which is consistent with a model whereby global frontier technologies only diffuse to laggards once they are adapted to country-specific circumstances by the most productive firms within each country (i.e. national frontier firms). This motivates an analysis of the sources of differences in the productivity and size of national frontier firms vis-à-vis the global frontier and the catch-up of laggard firms to the national productivity frontier. Econometric analysis suggests that well-designed framework policies can aid productivity diffusion by sharpening firms’ incentives for technological adoption and by promoting a market environment that reallocates resources to the most productive firms. There is also a role for R&D tax incentives, business-university R&D collaboration and patent protection but trade-offs emerge which can inform the design of innovation-specific policies. Entreprises en pointe, diffusion des technologies et politiques publiques : Microdonnées des pays de l'OCDE Ce document analyse les caractéristiques des entreprises qui se situent à la frontière mondiale en matière de productivité et leurs relations avec les autres entreprises de l’économie. Les entreprises à la frontière de la productivité mondiale – que l’on définit comme étant les entreprises les plus productives dans chaque industrie correspondant à un code à deux chiffres de la classification des activités économiques, dans 23 pays – sont en général de plus grande taille, plus rentables, plus jeunes, présentent une plus grande propension à breveter et font plus souvent partie d’un grand groupe multinational que les autres entreprises. Malgré le ralentissement de la croissance de la productivité globale, la croissance à la frontière mondiale est demeurée robuste pendant les années 2000, tandis que le creusement de l’écart de productivité entre les entreprises à la frontière et les autres soulève d’importantes questions quant aux raisons faisant que des technologies non rivales n’atteignent pas toutes les entreprises. À cet égard, l’analyse concorde avec un modèle selon lequel les technologies à la frontière mondiale ne rejoignent les entreprises retardataires que lorsqu’elles sont adaptées aux exigences propres à chaque pays des entreprises qui se situent à la frontière nationale. Ce processus très inégal de diffusion des technologies justifie une analyse des différences internationales en ce qui concerne les écarts de performances entre les entreprises à la frontière mondiale et celles qui se situent à la frontière nationale, et le rattrapage des entreprises retardataires par rapport à la frontière de productivité nationale. L’analyse économétrique donne à penser que des politiques-cadres judicieuses peuvent favoriser la diffusion de la productivité en affinant les motivations des entreprises à adopter des technologies nouvelles et en promouvant un environnement de marché qui réaffecte les ressources aux entreprises les plus productives. Les incitations fiscales à la R-D, la collaboration entreprises-universités en R-D et la protection par brevet ont un rôle à jouer, mais des arbitrages nouveaux peuvent inspirer des politiques spécifiques en faveur de l’innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Dan Andrews & Chiara Criscuolo & Peter N. Gal, 2015. "Frontier Firms, Technology Diffusion and Public Policy: Micro Evidence from OECD Countries," OECD Productivity Working Papers 2, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaac:2-en
    DOI: 10.1787/5jrql2q2jj7b-en

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    More about this item


    firm dynamics; productivity; productivité; reallocation; réaffectation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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