Innovation and absorptive capacity: What is the role of technological frontier?
This paper explores how absorptive capacity affects the innovative performance and productivity dynamics of Spanish firms. A firmâ€™s efficiency levels are measured using two variables: the labour productivity and the Total Factor Productivity (TFP). The theoretical framework is based on the seminal contributions of Cohen and Levinthal (1989, 1990) regarding absorptive capacity; and the applied framework is based on the four-stage structural model proposed by CrÃ©pon, Duguet and Mairesse (1998) for setting the determinants of R&D, the effects of R&D activities on innovation outputs, and the impacts of innovation on firm productivity. The present study uses a twostage structural model. In the first stage, a probit estimation is used to investigate how the sources of R&D, the absorptive capacity and a vector of the firmâ€™s individual features influence the firmâ€™s likelihood of developing innovations in products or processes. In the second phase, a quantile regression is used to analyze the effect of R&D sources, absorptive capacity and firm characteristics on productivity. This method shows the elasticity of each exogenous variable on productivity according to the firmsâ€™ levels of efficiency, and thus allows us to distinguish between firms that are close to the technological frontier and those that are further away from it. We used extensive firm-level panel data from 5,575 firms for the 2004-2009 period. The results show that the internal absorptive capacity has a strong impact on the productivity of firms, whereas the role of external absorptive capacity differs according to nature of the each industry and according the distance of firms from the technological frontier. Key words: R&D sources, innovation strategies, absorptive capacity, technological distance, quantile regression.
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