The Annals of Regional Science

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 473–499 | Cite as

Does absorptive capacity determine collaboration returns to innovation? A geographical dimension

  • Erika Raquel Badillo
  • Rosina MorenoEmail author
Special Issue Paper


This paper aims to estimate the impact of collaboration in innovation activities with partners in different geographical areas on innovative performance. By using the Spanish Technological Innovation Panel, this study provides evidence that the benefits of collaboration differ across different dimensions of the geography. We find that the impact of extra-European cooperation on innovation performance is larger than that of national and European cooperation, indicating that firms tend to benefit more from interaction with international collaborators as a way to access new technologies or specialized and novel knowledge that they are unable to find locally. We also find evidence of the positive role played by absorptive capacity, concluding that it implies a higher premium on the innovation returns to cooperation in the international case and mainly in the European one.

JEL Classification

L25 O31 O33 R1 



The authors acknowledge financial support from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, ECO2011-30260-C03-03. Erika Badillo wishes to acknowledge the financial support from the AGAUR (Generalitat de Catalunya) through “the grant for universities and research centres for the recruitment of new research personnel (FI-DGR 2011)”. Rosina Moreno acknowledges financial support from Ayudas Fundación BBVA and the Program ICREA Acadèmia.


  1. Acs ZJ, Audretsch DB (1988) Innovation in large and small firms: an empirical analysis. Am Econ Rev 78:678–690Google Scholar
  2. Ahuja G, Katila R (2001) Technological acquisitions and the innovation performance of acquiring firms: a longitudinal study. Strateg Manag J 22(3):197–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arvanitis S (2012) How do different motives for R&D cooperation affect firm performance?—an analysis based on Swiss micro data. J Evol Econ 22(5):981–1007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arvanitis S, Bolli T (2013) A comparison of national and international innovation cooperation in five European countries. Rev Ind Organ 43:163–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arvanitis S, Lokshin B, Mohnen P, Wörter M (2013) Impact of external knowledge acquisition strategies on innovation: a comparative study based on Dutch and Swiss panel data. UNU-MERIT Working Papers 2013-003, pp 1–26Google Scholar
  6. Aschhoff B, Schmidt T (2008) Empirical evidence on the success of R&D cooperation—happy together? Rev Ind Organ 33(1):41–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Autant-Bernard C, Billand P, Frachisse D, Massard N (2007) Social distance versus spatial distance in R&D cooperation: empirical evidence from European collaborations choices in micro and nanotechnologies. Pap Reg Sci 86(3):495–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barge-Gil A (2013) Open strategies and innovation performance. Ind Innov 20(7):585–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bathelt H, Malmberg A, Maskell P (2004) Clusters and knowledge: local buzz, global pipelines and the process of knowledge creation. Prog Hum Geog 28:31–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Becker W, Dietz J (2004) R&D cooperation and innovation activities of firms—evidence for the German manufacturing industry. Res Policy 33:209–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Belderbos R, Carree MA, Lokshin B (2004) Cooperative R&D and firm performance. Res Policy 33(10):1477–1492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Belderbos R, Carree M, Lokshin B (2006) Complementarity in R&D cooperation strategies. Rev Ind Organ 28(4):401–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bergman E (2009) Embedding network analysis in spatial studies of innovation. Ann Reg Sci 43(3):559–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boschma RA, Iammarino S (2009) Related variety, trade linkages and regional growth. Econ Geogr 85(3):289–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cincera M, Kempen L, van Pottelsberghe B, Veugelers R, Villegas C (2003) Productivity growth, R&D and the role of international collaborative agreements: some evidence for Belgian manufacturing companies. Bruss Econ Rev 46(3):107–140Google Scholar
  16. Cohen WM, Levinthal DA (1989) Innovation and learning: the two faces of R&D. Econ J 99:569–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cohen WM, Levinthal DA (1990) Absorptive capacity: a new perspective on learning and innovation. Adm Sci Q 35:128–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dachs B, Ebersberger B, Lööf H (2008) The innovative performance of foreign-owned enterprises in small open economies. J Technol Transf 33:393–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Díaz-Díaz NL, Aguiar-Díaz I, De Saá-Pérez P (2008) Impact of foreign ownership on innovation. Eur Manag Rev 5:253–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Döring T, Schnellenbach J (2006) What do we know about geographical knowledge spillovers and regional growth? A survey of the literature. Reg Stud 40(3):375–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Duysters G, Lokshin B (2011) Determinants of alliance portfolio complexity and its effect on innovative performance of companies. J Prod Innov Manag 28:570–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Escribano A, Fosfuri A, Tribó JA (2009) Managing external knowledge flows: the moderating role of absorptive capacity. Res Policy 38(1):96–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. European Commission (2012) Guide to research and innovation strategies for smart specialisations (RIS 3). Smart Specialization PlatformGoogle Scholar
  24. Faems D, Van Looy B, Debackere K (2005) Interorganizational collaboration and innovation: toward a portfolio approach. J Prod Innov Manag 22(3):238–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frost TS, Zhou C (2005) R&D co-practice and “reverse” knowledge integration in multinational firms. J Int Bus Stud 36(6):676–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ghemawat P (2001) Distance still matters: the hard reality of global expansion. Harvard Bus Rev 79(8):137–147Google Scholar
  27. Giuliani E, Bell M (2005) The micro-determinants of meso-level learning and innovation: evidence from a Chilean wine cluster. Res Policy 34(1):47–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grossman GM, Helpman E (1991) Innovation and growth in the global economy. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. Hoang HT, Rothaermel FT (2005) The effect of general and partner-specific alliance experience on joint R&D project performance. Acad Manag J 48(2):332–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jones GK, Lanctot A Jr, Teegen HJ (2001) Determinants and performance impacts of external technology acquisition. J Bus Ventur 16(3):255–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kale P, Dyer JH, Singh H (2002) Alliance capability, stock market response, and long-term alliance success: the role of the alliance function. Strateg Manag J 23(8):747–767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Klomp L, van Leeuwen (2001) Linking innovation and firm performance: a new approach. Int J Econ Bus 8(3):343–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lahiri N (2010) Geographic distribution of R&D activity: how does it affect innovation quality? Acad Manag J 53(5):1194–1200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Laursen K, Salter A (2006) Open for innovation: the role of openness in explaining innovation performance among UK manufacturing firms. Strateg Manag J 27(2):131–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lavie D, Miller SR (2008) Alliance portfolio internationalization and firm performance. Organ Sci 19(4):623–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lane PJ, Salk JE, Lyles MA (2001) Absorptive capacity, learning, and performance in international joint ventures. Strateg Manag J 22:1139–1161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Levitt B, March JG (1988) Organizational learning. Ann Rev Sociol 14:319–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lööf H (2009) Multinational enterprises and innovation: firm level evidence on spillover via R&D collaboration. J Evol Econ 19(1):41–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lööf H, Broström A (2008) Does knowledge diffusion between university and industry increase innovativeness? J Technol Transf 33(1):73–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. López A (2008) Determinants of R&D cooperation: evidence from Spanish manufacturing firms. Int J Ind Organ 26:113–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lucas RE (1988) On the mechanics of economic development. J Monet Econ 22(1):3–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McCann P, Ortega-Argilés R (2013) Smart specialization, regional growth and applications to European Union cohesion policy. Reg Stud. doi: 10.1080/00343404.2013.799769 Google Scholar
  43. Miotti L, Sachwald F (2003) Cooperative R&D: why and with whom? An integrated framework of analysis. Res Policy 32:1481–1499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mohnen P, Mairesse J, Dagenais M (2006) Innovativity: a comparison across seven European countries. Econ Innov New Technol 15(4–5):391–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Monjon S, Waelbroeck P (2003) Assessing spillovers from universities to firms: evidence from French firm-level data. Int J Ind Organ 21(9):1255–1270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mundlak Y (1978) On the pooling of time series and cross-sectional data. Econometrica 46:69–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nieto MJ, Santamaría L (2007) The importance of diverse collaborative networks for the novelty of product innovation. Technovation 27:367–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nijman T, Verbeek M (1992) Nonresponse in panel data: the impact on estimates of a life cycle consumption function. J Appl Econom 7:243–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. OECD (2005) Oslo manual, guidelines for collecting and interpreting innovation, 3rd edn. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  50. O’Grady S, Lane HW (1996) The psychic distance paradox. J Int Bus Stud 27(2):309–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Owen-Smith J, Powell WW (2004) Knowledge networks as channels and conduits: the effects of spillovers in the Boston biotechnology community. Organ Sci 15:5–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raymond W, Mohnen P, Palm F, van der Loeff SS (2010) Persistence of innovation in Dutch manufacturing: is it spurious? Rev Econ Stat 92(3):495–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reis A (2001) On the welfare effects of foreign investment. J Int Econ 54(2):411–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Robin S, Schubert T (2013) Cooperation with public research institutions and success in innovation: evidence from France and Germany. Res Policy 42:149–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Romer PM (1986) Increasing returns and long-run growth. J Polit Econ 94(5):1002–1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Romer PM (1990) Endogenous technological change. J Polit Econ 98(5):71–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sampson RC (2005) Experience effects and collaborative returns in R&D alliances. Strateg Manag J 26:1009–1031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schoenmakers W, Duysters G (2006) Learning in strategic technology alliances. Technol Anal Strateg Manag 18(2):245–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schumpeter J (1942) Capitalism, socialism and democracy. Harper, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  60. Tsai K-H (2009) Collaborative networks and product innovation performance: toward a contingency perspective. Res Policy 38(5):765–778CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Van Beers C, Zand F (2014) R&D cooperation, partner diversity, and innovation performance: an empirical analysis. J Prod Innov Manag 31(2):292–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vega-Jurado J, Gutiérrez-Gracia A, Fernández-de-Lucio I (2009) Does external knowledge sourcing matter for innovation? Evidence from the Spanish manufacturing industry. Ind Corp Change 18(4):637–670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Veugelers R, Cassiman B (1999) Make and buy in innovation strategies: evidence from Belgian manufacturing firms. Res Policy 28:63–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wooldridge JM (1995) Selection corrections for panel data models under conditional mean independence assumptions. J Econom 68:115–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wooldridge JM (2010) Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data, 3rd edn. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  66. Zabel JE (1992) Estimating fixed effects and random effects with selectivity. Econ Lett 40:269–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zahra S, George G (2002) Absorptive capability: a review, reconceptualization, and extension. Acad Manag Rev 27(2):185–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AQR-IREA Research GroupUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Econometrics, Statistics and Spanish EconomyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations