Small Business Economics

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 353–368 | Cite as

Are public research spin-offs more innovative?

  • Andreas StephanEmail author


The main purpose of this paper is to analyse whether research spin-offs, that is, spin-offs from either public research institutes or universities, have greater innovation capabilities than comparable knowledge-intensive firms created in other ways. Using a sample of about 2,800 firms from highly innovative sectors, propensity score matching is used to create a sample group of control firms that is comparable to the group of spin-offs. The article provides evidence that the 121 research spin-offs investigated have more patent applications and more radical product innovations, on average, compared to similar firms. The results also show that research spin-offs’ superior innovation performance can be explained by their high level of research cooperation and by location factors. An urban region location and proximity to the parent institution are found to be conducive to innovation productivity. The article also finds evidence that research spin-offs are more successful in attracting support from public innovation support programmes in comparison to their peers.

JEL Classifications

M13 O18 R3 


Spin-offs Innovation performance Propensity score matching Location factors Cooperation Public R&D subsidies 



I thank Anders Broström, Michael Fritsch, Karl Wennberg, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. I’m also very grateful to the guest editor Helmut Fryges for his guidance through the revision process. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jönköping International Business SchoolJönköping UniversityJönköpingSweden
  2. 2.DIW BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.The Ratio InstituteStockholmSweden

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